Child Custody

Flexibility in Child Custody in the Best Interests of Growing Children

(US family law and divorce generally)

Custody Should Adapt to a Child’s Changes:

Divorces in the 21st century always include a parenting plan if there are children involved. Some parents share parenting almost equally, and some utilize a week-day/week-end schedule to keep the kids going to the same schools no matter which parent has visitation. Parents who live states apart can enact a parenting plan where one parent has the kids during the school year and the other has the children during summer vacation.

No parenting plan is ideal, because “ideal,” to a child, would be for the parents to be together. But this is the real world, which is a concept that all children will learn at some point in their upbringing. Parents, though, can do a great deal to keep pick-ups and drop-offs amenable and communication civil.


If divorced spouses can keep the lines of communication open, the children fare better. Married parents talk about their children all the time. If a divorced parent has a concern or just wants the ex-spouse to know something new about their child, he or she should be able to call the other parent. Keeping parenting the same in both homes is always better for the children.

Tender Years Doctrine:

Many states have, or are in the process of, eliminating the “tender years” doctrine. This means that instead of the presumption that it is always best for children to live with the mother, now both parents are being considered equally. This is a much fairer way to handle parenting options after divorce. Not only does it keep both parents more involved in the lives of their children, but it also levels the playing field for disputes over custody issues.

Best Interests of the Children:

In all states, crafting a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children is the primary consideration. It may be inconvenient for both parents, but the children should always come first. However, for many divorced parents, the children are caught in the crossfire of unresolved marital issues. With a concerted effort on the part of both parents, co-parenting can be accomplished after divorce without the insinuations, sabotage and veiled threats that some parents continue to remain embroiled in. Parents don’t have to like each other; they just have to act like they like each other.

If both parents are able to live within the boundaries of the school(s) that their children attend, there is little reason that parents can’t split their parenting time 50/50. In time, the children adjust to this and regard it as normal.

When a Child Decides:

A child’s needs change as he or she gets older. For instance, when a boy is 10 or 11, he may want to live with his father. Depending upon the parenting plan, this could actually involve only slight changes on the plan to allow the child to spend more time with his dad. But, if the dad lives out of state and sees the child only in the summer, the mother may not want to become the “summer” parent. In this event, the couple will have to work with the Court and a mediator to develop a new parenting plan.

In instances such as this, the judge may actually ask the child in chambers, away from his or her parents, to learn who the child wants to live with. The judge may also appoint a psychologist to meet with the child to discuss the issue. As long as it has been determined that the child hasn’t been coerced, there’s a good chance that the parenting plan will be revised to represent the child’s preference.

About the Author

This article was written by Karl Stockton for If a family law issue arises, contact a family lawyer to receive legal assistance.

Family Law

The Place of Children in Family Law

When dealing with divorce or the breakdown of a family, everything becomes a balancing act for a solicitor. Unlike in more straightforward property cases or employment disputes, there are often three parties involved in divorce and family law solicitors see a huge number of cases which involve one or more children.

The difficulty for family law experts is finding where the right balance. The law in the UK says very little about the rights of children and because of this most cases involving children are settled out of court with the help of a family law solicitor. Compare this to family law in somewhere like Australia, though, where a new reform bill means that the safety and rights of children will be paramount in disputes between couples and the outcomes of complicated cases will be decided by a court of law.

Of course, it’s a very complicated matter, but does the law do enough for children in the UK? What does the law say and how are children protected? Should we move towards a system where children are given explicit legal rights or does our system do the job?

Well, the first concern for the family law expert in any relationship breakdown is violence. The UK law states that the courts will only make an order against a particular parent having access to their child if not making that order would be more detrimental. Where one parent has demonstrated the willingness to commit violent acts against children the courts in the UK can still be firm and clear and it will become very hard for a violent parent to gain any access to their child at all.

It’s an equally common view amongst family law solicitors that children are happier if both parents have an influence in parenting. This is, of course, the ideal, but often negligent parents impose a negative influence on children and this is where out of court agreement really do work. A system where the child’s right or desire to its own joint care results in a parent who is disinterested being forced by a court to take charge could be potentially very dangerous.

Of course the Australian system is fraught with problems and the administrative costs of allowing courts to have such power in deciding what is right or wrong for a child can come at a massive time cost. It’s well known that divorces can take up to two years to resolve and dragging out what is potentially a very difficult time for all is not desirable for anyone.

The way that children are protected in the UK relies on both parents putting their own personal views of each other behind them and agreeing to come to a sensible arrangement. The law provides for the occasions when the parents are unable to do this and courts will step in if they need to. Really this way provides an adequate solution in difficult circumstances and when children’s well-being is at stake, a more powerful but administratively costly court just doesn’t seem to be the right solution.

Clough & Willis Solicitors are based in Bury, Manchester and the specialist Family Law team at Clough & Willis have extensive experience in divorce law, maintenance payments, financial settlements and child custody and can advise on all aspects of your situation. All Clough & Willis divorce solicitors are members of The Law Society Family Panel and Resolution.