It is all over the news; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have split. Speculation as to why Angelina chose to initiate divorce proceedings is rife, but there seems to have been little focus on the most important issue resulting from the relationship breakdown, namely:
What will happen to the children now?
Often, the most distressing factor of a relationship breakdown is trying to agree childcare arrangements moving forward. Certainly, where both parties have had an active role in the upbringing of the children, it is difficult for them to imagine not seeing the children every day. As difficult as it may be, arrangements have to be made and, where issues such as this arise in England, there are a number of ways in which we can assist parties to come to an agreement, as follows:
Mediation is an effective and relatively inexpensive means of agreeing child care arrangements. Both of the parents attend the session, along with a qualified mediator, to discuss how to move forward post separation. Often, the presence of a qualified neutral third party can help parents to obtain perspective and move negotiations on through difficult stages.
Arbitration for children matters is very new; in fact, it was only launched in July 2016. Arbitration is a means of resolving disputes without recourse to Court, in a structured environment. Parties must both consent to arbitration and they must sign an agreement in which they confirm they are happy to be bound by the decision of the Arbitrator (known as the Award). Arbitration is a more flexible approach than Court proceedings as the parties can agree their own timetables and directions, working out what steps are necessary and appropriate for their case and how to best get to a final outcome. Currently it is likely to be much quicker and less expensive than court, as many arbitrators are trained and keen to take on their first case!
Children Act Proceedings
If all else fails, there is the option of issuing proceedings at Court. This is done by way of Form C100. As with arbitration, there will be a timetable to adhere to, alongside the directions ordered by the Court, but it is less tailored to individual needs and courts are somewhat overloaded these days. If mediation or arbitration cannot be agreed and the parents cannot work something out together, this is often the only way of achieving an outcome, but it is rarely anyone’s first choice. Despite this, it is important to note that courts prioritise children cases and the people involved (judges and CAFCASS officers) are well trained for dealing with children and often do so in a very helpful and future-focussed way.
If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to child care arrangements and would like advice or assistance in this regard, then please contact a member of the Family team for an initial discussion. Our telephone number is 01737 854 500.