Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Divorce Works For Fathers

Divorce is what legally ends the marriage between you and your former partner resulting in a decree nisi and a decree absolute. It can be simple, or a lengthy, contentious process, depending on the parties involved, and how they agree to divide property and assets.

Concerning children, divorce can be equally straightforward or problematic. You will have Parental Responsibility for the children born in wedlock with your partner. You will have to pay child support, or maintenance, which can be worked out with your ex or a monthly sum mandated by the Child Support Agency, depending on your income.

Working Out Of Court

This is the easiest way, if you can reach an agreement in direct negotiation with your ex or through mediation. There’s less acrimony and generally a much better atmosphere to the proceedings and you can take the agreement to court, and it becomes legally valid if signed by the solicitors employed by you and your ex.

Be aware, however, that mothers have flouted these agreements in the past, and some will again. If so, you’ll need to obtain a court order to have them enforced, and even then those might be breached. A great deal depends on the goodwill between you and your former partner.

In Court

Some feel its better if you represent yourself in court, using someone called a “McKenzie friend,” a person familiar with experience of the legal and divorce processes. Others feel your interests will be better served by employing a solicitor to argue your case for you.

In the case of an acrimonious divorce, you might find your ex making accusations against you. You’ll need to be prepared for this. If you’ve had contact with your children before the divorce hearing, keep a parenting diary with full details of the contacts, dates, etc adding photographs if possible.

Where children are old enough to voice opinions, their wishes are taken into account by the court regarding contact and residence. Another important part of the proceedings is the CAFCASS report, where both parents, other carers, teachers and others are interviewed to reach a determination. Courts mostly follow all the recommendations of the report. However, if you’re unhappy with any part of it, you can challenge that, or even request a new report by another officer.

The tradition in contact tends to be every other weekend and half the school holidays with you, with your children spending the rest of the time with their mother. However, it’s quite possible to suggest other arrangements, especially if that’s what your children desire. Joint residency, for example, is a relatively new concept here, but one which is widely practiced in Europe and gaining traction in America.

Things You Should Do

Keep up your maintenance payments, making them on time and in full. This shows responsibility to your children and eliminates at least one legal hold your ex might have over you. If unemployment or other factors make payment impossible, keep full records and present them to the court.

If possible, create a co-parenting plan with your ex. This can help head off any future problems and means you really are putting your children first.

Never use your kids to pass messages to your former partner. Keep them above the problems you two have.

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