Parental Separation: How you can support yourself and your children through a divorce

Lawyer signing paperwork at Dutton Gregory, Hampshire

Dutton Gregory Solicitors can help guide you through sensitive, complex separation proceedings. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Relationship breakdown and divorce can be a difficult and emotionally challenging time, particularly for any children who are involved. 

A smooth separation is not always an easy thing to achieve, especially when it involves physical distance and relocation. Having a legal professional alongside you to help navigate the process and avoid pitfalls is invaluable, and family law specialists at Hampshire-based Dutton Gregory Solicitors are available to offer legal expertise and conscientious advice. 

Jonathan Whettingsteel, Partner at the firm, talks us through the considerations for parents facing divorce. 

Q: How is the welfare of children managed during a parental divorce? 

Jonathan Whettingsteel at Dutton Gregory, Winchester

Jonathan Whettingsteel is a partner at Dutton Gregory, and has extensive experience in dealing with contentious issues such as divorce, child law and financial cases. - Credit: Dutton Gregory

A: Whilst there are numerous issues to be resolved during any marriage breakdown, the welfare of any children involved will be the Court's paramount consideration. This is understandably a very difficult and sensitive subject for parents, so having an experienced legal professional on-hand to simplify complex matters is essential. 

“The welfare of children will ultimately be the deciding factor,” Jonathan explains. “Regarding issues such as relocation, the impact on the parent will be taken into consideration, but ultimately it is the wellbeing of a child that is of paramount concern. 

“Solicitors can advise individuals on these issues, examining the strengths and potential weaknesses of the argument for relocation, and often finding tailored solutions for an individual's circumstances. They can also act on behalf of children and, if necessary, represent the Court-appointed guardian in order to provide a voice for the child in the proceedings.” 

Q: How are the living arrangements usually judged and negotiated? 

A: Court is usually the last port of call for parents negotiating living arrangements, particularly when it comes to relocation. Parents are encouraged to reach an agreement with the aid of solicitors and mediation, especially if they are living in the same geographical region.  

If such an agreement cannot be made, however, the Court will step in, starting with the presumption that contact with both parents is in the child’s best interests. 

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Such contact may take the form of letters, phone calls and video calls, not just face to face meetings.  

Solicitor talks client through paperwork at Dutton Gregory, Hampshire

Having a legal expert who can offer advice on divorce law and child custody can prove invaluable. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Q: What happens if one parent is planning on moving abroad with the children? 

A: This can be complicated, as children should always be given the opportunity to have an equal relationship with each parent.

When discussing a move abroad, the parent will be required to explain how they intend to facilitate this relationship before a decision is made.

We are very fortunate to be living in such a technologically advanced age, the importance of which has been highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, so frequent video calls and other forms of contact can be established between parent and child. 

When a Court is weighing up the decision of granting permission to relocate abroad, safeguarding the child’s relationship with the remaining parent will be the major concern.

There are a number of things a parent needs to cover when asking to take a child abroad, either permanently or temporarily, and a solicitor can offer advice and support in preparing a detailed proposal for a Court's consideration and maximising the chance of its agreement.

Q: What happens if a parent wishes to take a child abroad to visit family? 

A: If there is a Court Order in place that grants a parent full-time custody, the child can be taken out of the country for a month without the consent of the other parent. If not, then removal requires the agreement of all parties. 

The Court will take into consideration the country to which they are going on holiday, and will examine the various safeguards to ensure that the children return within the specified timeframe. This can take the form of Court Orders in the country they are heading to, or leaving a financial deposit to ensure the return of the children in the event the deadline is missed. 

Jonathan Whettingsteel is a solicitor specialising in family law. In January 2022, he’ll be publishing a book on internal and external child relocation; the book will cover the relevant case law, examining statutes and procedures as well as providing a go-to guide for solicitors and laypeople alike. 

To discover more about the process for child custody and relocation during a separation, visit duttongregory.co.uk or call 01962 844333.