How Will a Divorce Pan out With Children in the Picture?
Divorce can be made simple if uncontested, but what if there are children in the picture? A divorce is no longer just between the Husband and the Wife when there is a child, or children, from the marriage.
Television programmes often depict divorcing parents who are undergoing a ‘messy’ divorce ‘fighting’ for their child in custody battles. However, getting custody of your child is only a tiny tip of the iceberg. Here are some quick answers to some child-related questions you might have when considering a divorce.
What happens to my children during divorce proceedings?
As part of settling the ancillary matters, if parties have any children below the age of 21, parents should be prepared to discuss their preferred arrangement for the children.
Arrangements for children above the age of 21 years old who are still undergoing tertiary education, who are physically and/or mentally disabled should also be discussed.
It is ideal if parties can reach an agreement regarding the various child issues for their children below as it saves both parties time and fees relating to legal proceedings.
However, where there are instances where parties are acrimonious, our lawyers would then be able to suggest alternative methods for you to try to reach an agreement with your partner.
In the event where the parties are unable to reach an agreement in relation to child issues, these issues would then be brought before the Court, where a decision would then be granted based on what is presented to the Court by both parties.
What child issues are there?
There are several child issues that have to be considered by divorcing parents, with the main four issues being (A) care and control, (B) custody, (C) access, and (D) maintenance:-
- Care and control
A parent given care and control of the child is the daily caregiver of the child and can partake in day-to-day decision making for the child. This is also the parent whom the child lives with.
There are two types of care and control orders that may be granted by the Court:-
- Care and control to one parent: More commonly granted, care and control to one parent refers to when a parent is appointed by the Court as the parent who undertakes daily care of the child, makes the day-to-day decisions for the child, and lives with the child.
- Shared care and control: Less commonly granted, shared care and control is where both parents take turns and/or jointly have care and control of the child (e.g., half a week each, every alternate week each). For the Court to grant shared care and control, parties need to be equal and effective co-parents.
Custody refers to the residual rights that remain after the grant of care and control and concerns the long-term decision-making for the child’s welfare (e.g., religion, education and health).
There are three types of custody orders that may be granted by the Court:-
- Joint custody order: Joint custody refers to when both parents are jointly involved in the long-term decision making for the child’s welfare. In the case where care and control is granted to one parent, that parent would have to seek the other parent’s input before making long-term or major decisions for the welfare of the child.
- Sole custody order: Sole custody refers to when only one parent is granted with the right to make long term decisions for the welfare of the child. Sole custody orders are rarely granted unless the Court has cause to believe that ordering sole custody is most beneficial for the child.
- Hybrid custody order: Hybrid custody refers to when the parent granted custody of the child is required to consult the other parent regarding the child’s welfare before making those decisions.
In certain cases, the Court may also not grant any custody orders, and leave the parents to work out the custody arrangements on their own.
Access refers to the contact time that the parent who is not loving with the child will have with the child.
There are two types of access orders that may be granted by the Court: -
- Liberal access: Liberal access refers to access where no conditions are imposed, where the parents cooperate amongst themselves to work out a regular or flexible routine on the time both parents will spend with the child.
- Reasonable access: Reasonable access refers to access with conditions and restrictions imposed, such as supervised access, access only between a specific timeframe, during specific days of the week or on special occasions.
Child maintenance refers to the any monetary contributions that the Court orders the parent without care and control to provide to the parent with care and control. These monetary contributions go toward the child’s living expenses. In assessing the amount for child maintenance, the Court takes into consideration factors such as the financial needs of the child, income of parents, earning capacity of parents, physical or mental disability in the child, child’s standard of living, inter alia.
There are two types of child maintenance that may be ordered by the Court:-
- Lump-sum maintenance: Rarely ordered, lump-sum maintenance refers to when the Court orders the parent without care and control to provide a fixed lump-sum to the parent with care and control within a stipulated deadline, which will go toward the child’s long-term living expenses.
- Monthly maintenance (or in other intervals): Monthly maintenance refers to when the Court orders the parent without care and control to provide monthly quantum to the parent with care and control every month on a specific date, which will go toward the child’s monthly living expenses.
The welfare of your child or children is of paramount importance
When discussing child issues with your partner, it is important to not neglect the welfare of your children due to the stress and negativity involved in divorce proceedings, especially when parties are not in agreement with many factors. It is also important to bear in mind that your children are likely to be adversely affected by their parents’ divorce, and that the children should never be used as a bargaining chip in their parents’ divorce.
While the Court considers both parents as well as the children’s opinions (if they are of an age where they are able to voice an opinion) when granting orders relating to child issues, the Court works on the principle that the child’s well-being is central and second to none.
In some cases, the Court may also order both parties and/or their children to attend mediation or counselling so as to assist the parties on working out the arrangements regarding child issues and help parents focus on the children’s welfare and interest.
Seeking professional help
It is important to have the help of an experienced matrimonial lawyer when going through a divorce, more so when children are involved. Our lawyers at Gloria James-Civetta & Co, can help you work through the issues involved, streamline the process and handle all the paperwork required for your divorce proceedings and ancillary matters on your behalf.