Looking after the children - Disputes

In any dispute over who should have the custody, and care and control of the children where the initial conciliation procedure has failed to achieve an agreement, both parents will have to follow the recognised court procedures.

1 The parent who seeks custody, and care and control of the children will make the application to the court supported by an affidavit giving his or her reasons why the other party should not be entitled to a joint custody order. This affidavit will invite a reply from the other parent.

2 A court welfare officer will be appointed to discuss matters fully with each parent, and with the children if they are of an age to express any opinion.

Eventually, the court welfare officer will prepare a report having considered any other factors which may be relevant to the case. These might include, for example, the role of a grandparent in the children's upbringing, comments from teachers, and opinions from doctors.

This information is in the form of a written report because, on the whole, the court does not welcome a string of witnesses for both parties each proclaiming the virtues of the specific parent. However, in addition to the court welfare officer's report, the court occasionally requires evidence from the children's teacher, social worker or doctor, in which case this person will usually be asked to give evidence in court.

3 Once all this material has been gathered, the matter will be set down for a hearing before a judge. At the end of that hearing the judgement will be given, and an order made as to the custody and care and control of the children.

The court system in the United Kingdom is an adversarial system and as such is thought by many family law solicitors to be an unfortunate forum for a dispute between two parents about their children.

It is, by nature, accusatorial and in a situation where emotions are already heightened, the system does little to encourage conciliation. The priority here should be to provide a situation where the parents themselves can agree on the future of their children - if on nothing else.

KIRSTY APP on divorce - Next:

Looking after the children - Disputes over access

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