When a relationship breaks down parents will often find themselves caught up in arguments and sometimes legal battles over the arrangements for their children.
Dads will often feel that they are on the “back foot” and that their rights are secondary to the mother. This is not necessarily the case. Read on for tips when fighting for custody…
1. Make your referral to mediation now
If you have not referred your dispute to mediation and attended a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, the Court is unlikely to entertain your application for a Child Arrangements Order that the child/children should live with you. Instead, the Court will divert you to attend a MIAM first that will cause delay in the proceedings.
2. Take action now
It is a clear signal of your commitment to the children and your determination to have matters resolved in their interests.
3. No arguing
Do not argue with your former partner – especially when the children are present. The children will be hyper vigilant for any signs of disagreement between you. It is important that they see you, as the residential parent they can rely on to be calm and collected in times of stress and adversity.
4. Do not respond to provocation
You may find yourself in a situation where you are placed under immense pressure. Do not respond to this provocation. The Police could be called by your former partner and this will undoubtedly be used against you. In the face of adversity, walk away.
5. See the children as often as possible
It will be difficult for you to succeed in an application for a Child Arrangements Order for residence if you are not having as much contact as possible. When contact does take place, keep a record of what you do, when you do it and who you do it with. Bring that record to life by the use of photos and a diary which can be referred to in Court proceedings if necessary.
6. Liaise with professionals
Keep in touch with the children’s school, doctor, dentist, child minder or any other professional who is involved in ensuring their welfare needs are met. They will be able to give insight into your children that you may not have from any other source.
7. Record keeping
Keep a record in your diary and keep your diary up to date. Record anything that you consider will be of significance and report them to your solicitor. The use of a diary is very often a helpful tool in contested children proceedings.
8. Attend Court
If you have got to the stage of Court proceedings, you must attend each and every Court hearing. Make sure that you “dress to impress”, show deference and respect to the Judge and the Court staff. If you engage in inappropriate behaviour in the Court (even if it is in the waiting room) the Court staff will tell the Judge. Therefore, you must be on your best behaviour at all times.
9. Take advice and follow it
Listen to what your solicitor has to say to you. He or she will be able to share their many years of experience with you and hopefully guide you in the right direction in connection with the Court proceedings. A failure to follow advice and/or pay your solicitors bill may find you in the unfortunate situation of being without representation at a crucial stage in the proceedings.
10. Pay maintenance
Always make sure that your maintenance payments are up to date. If they are not, your former partner is likely to use this as a weapon against you. It is often the case that maintenance will be referred to within Court proceedings and will sometimes be mentioned to the children themselves. The payment of maintenance should be seen as a privilege and undertaken as a priority.
Making the decision that your children would be better off living with you than with the other parent is a difficult decision for anyone. However, once you have made that decision then it is crucial that you abide by the guidelines set out above which should give you the best prospect of success in those proceedings.
Melanie Bridgen is a specialist family law solicitor at Nelsons. If you need advice on children issues, residence or shared residence, contact or any other family law matter, please contact Melanie on telephone 01332 378 667 or email, Melanie.Bridgen@nelsonslaw.co.uk and she will be happy to discuss your circumstances in more detail and give you information about the services that Nelsons’ family children law solicitors can provide.