When two parents decide that they can no longer live together in harmony, they may face considerable issues as they try to unravel the relationship. Even so, these personal issues may be nothing compared to the challenges that may befall their children in both the short term and long term. However, sometimes it's simply impossible to save a union even with the interests of the children at heart, and in this case, it's important to take as much care as possible to look after their future. Is this something that you can do yourselves as responsible adults, or does a court need to get involved?
The Position of the Courts
One way or the other, a court is only going to issue you a divorce if they are satisfied that the children are carefully accounted for. This does not necessarily mean that they will impose a legally binding order, so long as they can see that you are taking the appropriate steps.
Creating the Parenting Plan
The best way to handle this is through the development of a parenting plan. This type of arrangement will include how you're going to deal with educational matters and healthcare and how you're going to split living arrangements. You also need to address religion, the provision of emotional support and the all-important finances.
It may take some time and effort to draw up a proper plan. Remember, this type of plan is not legally enforceable per se, but it must meet with certain criteria before the court will sign off.
Trying to Agree
Sometimes, it's not possible for the individuals to agree on a proper parenting plan, especially if one has a very strong position and might try to coerce the other one into adopting it. In this case, it's likely that the court will establish its own plan which is based purely on the interests of the children, giving reasonable accommodation to the adults.
What About a Consent Order?
In some circumstances it'll be better to think about a consent order instead. This may be less detailed, although it will cover living arrangements, visitation and key educational matters. The big difference is that this consent order is legally enforceable, and the court may decide this is the way forward if one parent seems to be acting unreasonably.
Remember the Children
Always try to protect the children from any trauma associated with this process. If you can quietly agree on the terms of a parenting plan in the background, this would be preferable to the court. Remember, however, that if you cannot make the right amount of progress or there seems to be a lot of animosity, the court could step in with a formal decree.
Each party should retain the services of a lawyer to help them navigate this uncertain area and to help them come up with a future that takes into account the needs of all concerned.