When parents separate the question is often asked “where will the children live?”. It is often assumed that the children will remain with their mother whether she remains in the marital home or not.
In most cases this will be discussed and agreed between the parents at the time of the initial split, however sometimes an agreement can not always be met, involving mediators, solicitors and the Court. When or if the Court intervenes to make the decision of where the child or children should live, the Court’s paramount consideration is the child’s welfare. This overrides the wishes and feelings of the parents involved.
The Court will also take in to account other factors such as the wishes and feelings of the children, where appropriate, depending upon their age and understanding and the physical, emotional and educational needs of the children. In particular, the Court must consider the effects upon the children with a change in their circumstances, such as moving from one home to another, and how capable each parent is of looking after the child or children.
Therefore, this does not necessarily mean that the children will always stay with their mother. If the Court believes that the children’s needs can be best met by their father then an order can be made that the children remain in their father’s care. This is know as a ‘Child Arrangement Order’.
Both parents should be made aware that the Court will only be persuaded to change the residence of a child if this is believed to be absolutely necessary. The Court must be satisfied that the parent with whom the children should live will promote contact with the other parent and encourage contact to take place as much as possible.