101 Questions Answered about Separating with Children

101 Questions Answered about Separating with Children

Cuts to Family Legal Aid have impacted countless families, resulting in many people being unable to afford the opportunity to seek legal advice during the breakdown of their marriage or relationship. The court process can be incredibly daunting for those unfamiliar with it.

Only Mums and Only Dads is a national not-for-profit service that provides support and signposting for parents going through a separation or a divorce. One of SAL’s members, Shivi Rajput, a family law solicitor acts as a family law panellist with Only Mums and Only Dads.

The organisation has produced a book: 101 Questions Answered about Separating with Children which answers frequently asked questions such as: “do courts automatically think kids are better off with mum; what happens at a fact-finding hearing; are arrangements made in mediation legally binding?” and attempts to guide the readers through the law and procedure. Further chapters focus on what it means to put children first, as well as giving a psychologist’s view on the effects of marital discord on children.

SAL talks to Shivi Rajput, a Senior Associate at Camilla Baldwin Solicitors and nominee for Asian Legal Awards Civil Lawyer 2018, about her involvement with the book:

Q: In your view, who would benefit from reading this book?

Ans: The book is aimed primarily at separating and divorcing parents, but would be useful for family and relationship counsellors, family support groups, family members who are supporting relatives through a separation or a divorce and is valuable to family lawyers and mediators as a source of reference to help clients.

The objective of the book is to make the relationship or marital breakdown process where children are involved more manageable. We hope it will ensure greater access to justice and assist people through one of the most difficult stages of their lives.

In addition to helping families through a difficult time, this book serves as a useful guide to family lawyers and can be a great introduction to family law for aspiring lawyers.

Qu: In addition to yourself, who has contributed to the work of the book?

Ans: The book is a collaboration of work from some of the UK’s leading mediators, family lawyers and child psychologists.

Qu: Have the child psychologists told you about the impact divorce can have on children of the family?

Ans: Well in 2015, ComRes published a survey of the views of 14-22 years olds who had experienced family breakups, there is no doubt that the impact is monumental. However 82% of those surveyed said they would prefer their parents to separate if they were unhappy.

Despite the majority of young people supporting a separation if necessary, the statistics also make clear the negative effects of divorce on children. 65% said that their GCSE exam results were affected and 44% said that their A-Levels suffered as a result of their parents’ separation.

Qu: What prompted you to get involved with this book and what is your contribution to it?

Ans: A badly managed divorce can have serious, adverse consequences for children. I was therefore very keen to be involved with compiling a guide that attempts to focus parents’ minds on ensuring that their children’s best interests are properly catered for during a relationship breakdown.

My contribution in the book focuses on what records parents should keep in the event of hostile handovers, and whether it is ever appropriate to make secret recordings. A frequent cause of frustration within family proceedings is that many disputes take place within the confines of the family home, so there is rarely an independent person present to corroborate your version of events. Without independent witnesses, how does a parent prove that the other is being abusive during handovers, or is inappropriately influencing the children?

The ever-increasing sophistication of modern recording equipment, and the ease of which these are available to parents these days, makes the idea of creating covert recordings attractive, as a means of “proving” your version of events. The book discusses whether such recordings are legal, and whether they can (and should) be used as evidence within Children Act proceedings, as well as what impact such practices can have on the children involved.

Copies of the book can be ordered directly through the publisher, Bath Publishing , through the Only Mums and Only Dads website or via Amazon. ISBN: 978-1-9164315-1-5.

Chamali Fernando, Barrister, Civil & Financial Litigation
Co-opted Committee Member

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