Family disputes that involve children are particularly sensitive and serious, and potentially very expensive and disruptive. Victoria Strode, Associate Solicitor at Mogers Drewett looks at the ways in which disputes are resolved to ensure the best outcome for the children.
A complex family law case hit the headlines in recent weeks that involved a woman who became pregnant following artificial insemination and a same-sex male couple. One of the men was the biological father and he and his partner submitted to the Court that the mother had offered to act as a surrogate. This would enable them to be the main carers for the baby but she would play a role in the child’s life. However, the mother argued that the child’s biological father had agreed to be a sperm donor for her; they together would parent the child, albeit as if they had separated.
Whilst the particular facts in this case are unusual, the Court had to make decisions on issues which thousands of other families face. These include; with whom a child will live, when and how contact would occur, and whether the father’s name should be on the birth certificate. Despite the complex and unique facts, the law which the Court applied was the same as in all children proceedings; the welfare of the child is their paramount consideration.
When a Court needs to make decisions about children, including issues such as schooling and medical care, the Court will consider a set of factors known as the ‘Welfare Checklist’. These factors include the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs, and the effect a change of circumstances would have on them. Additionally, when appropriate the Court will listen to the wishes and feelings of a child.
The Court has a very important role to play for children, in that it will make decisions when parents cannot come to an agreement. However Court proceedings can be a destructive environment for families. Judges are faced with the difficult task of making decisions about a child based on the evidence put forward and a limited amount of Court time. Furthermore, Court proceedings can cost thousands of pounds and can sour relationships between parents even further. Resolving issues in relation to a child, such as having regular contact, can be achieved without needing to attend Court. Negotiations between parents with the help of solicitors can ensure that the best outcome is achieved for everyone.
Mediation is another alternative for parents who wish to come to a set of proposals together with the assistance of a single impartial mediator. When it comes to disputes in relation to children, no matter how complicated and unique a situation is, the fundamental aim will always be to achieve the best outcome for the child.
If you would like more information please contact Victoria Strode, an Associate Solicitor and trained Mediator in our family team on 01749 342 323 or email@example.com.