Q: How should we reach agreement?
Without doubt, reaching agreement through discussion and compromise is the best way forward. If you can arrange things without going through the court process you will find it:
- less stressful for your children
- less stressful for you and your child’s mum
- more enduring
It will also make your children feel more emotionally contained and reassure them that they can rely on their parents to remain stable. It also models a co-operative adult relationship, something they will draw on in their own adult life.
If you need some help in reaching agreement, you could use a trained mediator. You may also wish to consult a solicitor in order to get some background legal information.
Q: What do we need to agree on?
There are a few key things that most couples need to agree on when they decide to separate:
- care and contact
- parenting input
- the division of assets
- financial support
Q: How do we reach agreement about care and contact?
A: Except in extreme cases, it is important that children have quality contact with both of their parents. This helps them to adjust to the new situation and provides the input that they need to internalise a secure attachment to their mum and dad allowing them to grow with a sense of emotional security.
Remember that what counts in care and contact arrangements is quality not quantity. You should use your child’s pre-divorce care patterns as a guide to agreeing new arrangements.
Q: How do we reach agreement about parenting input?
A: Parenting input is the way that you will make decisions about your child’s wellbeing. You may need to make arrangements to agree things such as diets, religious upbringing, schools, bed times, ways of guiding behaviour and even hours spent on the computer.
Q: How do we reach agreement about housing?
A: You will need to consider not only your own housing needs but the needs of your child or children. It is therefore a good idea to agree about care and contact arrangements before deciding what you are going to do about housing.
You may wish your child to remain in the family home if care will mostly be provided by one parent. Alternatively, you may need to sell the family home in order to provide two suitable homes where ongoing care will be more evenly shared.
Q: How do we reach agreement about the division of assets?
A: If your relationship with your child’s mum is going to remain co-operative and constructive, then it is important to make the division of assets as fair as possible. It is also important to take into consideration the ongoing financial security of your children.
Q: How do we reach agreement about financial support?
A: Financial support breaks down into two possible elements. A potential need to provide financial security for your child’s mum and the need for your child to be provided for financially. You may need to talk to a mediator or a solicitor when agreeing about financial support for your child’s mum.
The Child Support Agency (C-MEC from October 2008) will also be able to rule on the level of child maintenance. Again, a mediator or solicitor will also be able to help. It is important that you make arrangements that don’t disadvantage your child when they are with you or their mum.