Looking after the children

One issue which often raises the temperature in divorce proceedings is the question of the custody of the children.

One method of ensuring that you both approach the discussions as calmly as possible is by finding out exactly what the terms custody, care and control, and access actually mean. You should know, too, that the legal custody of legitimate children vests jointly in the parents unless, and until, an order is made to the contrary by the court.


The concept of conciliation is one which is growing rapidly in family law.

The purpose of conciliation is to help couples to find an acceptable solution to the problems they face. Conciliation at present tends to be used only where there is a dispute over the custody, care and control or access to the children although moves are afoot to enlarge the scope of conciliation within family law.

There are a number of family conciliation services throughout the country. see http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Lookingafterchildrenifyoudivorceorseparate/index.htm

It is the function of these services to provide an experienced and trained professional who is independent of the parties and their solicitors and who will provide the environment in which couples can discuss, with the help of the conciliator, the problems which they are encountering. Conciliation allows both spouses to express their views and possibly to reach an agreement acceptable to both, without the pressure which the adversarial approach of a contested hearing inevitably produces.

Many Family Conciliation Services are affiliated to the National Family Conciliation Council.

You will find your nearest service by contacting the NFCC or your local Citizen's Advice Bureau will provide you with information on your local service.

Many courts in England and Wales now have an 'in court' conciliation scheme where a registrar with the help of a conciliator, usually a court welfare officer, will attempt to help couples to reach a decision over disputes which have arisen over the children. The 'in court' scheme is discussed below.

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Looking after the children - Joint custody

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