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You don't have to go to Court to resolve marital disputes

My ex-partner and I disagree over arrangements for our children - Do we have to go to Court?

No, a court application is only a last resort if you can’t reach agreement by another method. First you should try discussing things directly with your ex but if this doesn’t work, a mediator may be able to help. A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you both understand your differences and reach a compromise.

You can discuss issues such as where the children should live, and arrangements for contact between the children and a parent or grandparents. The outcome might be that you agree a written ‘shared parenting agreement,’ setting out child care arrangements for the future.

Collaborative law is another option where you each of you instructs a lawyer and then you all meet to resolve the dispute. You can include family professionals such as counsellors in this process. It is a very constructive way of approaching disputes relating to children.

If you can’t reach agreement using one of these methods, and the dispute is serious, it may be time to consider a court application. Perhaps you disagree fundamentally over educational or religious issues, or you wish to take the children to live in another country.

Regardless of the issue, the court will require proof that you have explored mediation as an option before filing an application. The court will only make an order if it is necessary to do so in the best interests of the child concerned. The court is also unlikely to make an order regarding a child aged 16 or over, unless there are special circumstances.

The law in this area changes regularly and each case is unique, so it is best to seek advice from a solicitor to find out what your options are.

There is also help and support available from resources online – try http://www.resolution.org.uk/separatingtogether/ and https://www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk/ 



By Tasha Bevan-Steward, Watson Thomas Solicitors in Fleet and Guildford