Partner and Head of Family Law, Amanda Phillips-Wylds, gives a guide to child care and irons out some of common myths around it.

1. The mother automatically has the right to have the children with her

When parent’s separate, it is up to them to decide who the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent. It is not necessary for the court to be involved, unless the parents cannot agree and ask the court to make the decision of their behalf. If a court does become involved, they will base their decision on what they believe are the best interests for the children; they also have a checklist of factors to measure against.

Due to the change of today’s society, parenting roles are evolving and in more and more cases, the father is taking on the greater role in the care for the children. In some cases, the child will live with the father after separation.

When deciding how much time the children will spend with each of their parents after separation, there is no standard agreement and arrangements may differ during holiday periods and term time, which normally evolve over time. Although, it is actually becoming more common for parents to share the care of the children 50/50.

2. The parent with custody of a child has greater rights

No matter who a child lives with, each parent has the role in the decision making in the child’s life. Provided both parents have parental responsibility, they both have an equal say in all of the important decisions, i.e. education, medical treatment, religion and property. However, the child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility for the child, and the father will have parental responsibility if he was married to the mother at the time of birth, if he is on the child’s birth certificate (births from 01.12.03) or if he has a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or a court order.

3. You can stop a parent from seeing their child if they are not paying child maintenance

If the other parent is not paying child maintenance, there is no legal basis to stop them from seeing their child. What we would advise is to contact the Child Maintenance Service for a calculation.

We understand and are empathetic to the pain and hurt a divorce can cause, however it is so important for you and your ex-spouse to put aside your personal feelings towards each other when making decisions for your children. Help your children as much as you can to help them cope with their Mum and Dad’s divorce, by approaching matters with dignity and civility.