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In UK divorce law the most contentious and bitter struggles are often fought over children - custody of children, access to children etc. It will be remembered that the third distinct aspect of divorce proceedings may be related to children if there are children of the marriage. It should be emphasised that in the vast majority of divorces questions relating to the children are not an issue and arrangements are made voluntarily which are quite satisfactory to husband, wife and children. It is only a small minority of cases which involve disputes about children but when they occur such disputes can be very difficult indeed. The custody of children in divorce is very emotive.

In point of fact when there are dependent children of a relationship it is a part of the divorce process to file a "Statement of Arrangements" in respect of the children at the same time as filing the divorce petition. The person filing the divorce petition will complete a form setting out the arrangements which it is proposed for the children - where they will live, which schools they will attend, contact arrangements with the absent parent etc. The petitioner will certainly sign the form and there is provision for it also to be signed by the respondent. If both husband and wife do sign the Statement of Arrangements then questions involving the children rarely become an issue.

The Court has to be satisfied that satisfactory arrangements are in place for the children before granting a decree absolute of divorce and that requirement will usually be met if husband and wife have agreed what those arrangements are to be and completed the relevant form. In the majority if cases this tends to be that the children will continue to live with the mother but have contact with the father. The court will read through the arrangements and if it has no query the court will sign a certificate saying it has considered the arrangements and that they are satisfactory. That is then the end of the matter.

There is only one point which is worth commenting upon in this very common situation. Young children almost invariably continue to live with their mother. There is no rule of law about this but it is the way it most often works out. The reason is usually that the mother has been at home looking after the children during the marriage while the husband has gone out to work. Or perhaps the mother has worked part-time to fit in with the children's school day. It is therefore natural for this situation to be preserved after the divorce for practical reasons if for no other.

It will be remembered, though, that in arriving at the financial settlement between husband and wife the court has to take into account various factors and one of these will be the needs of the children. Obviously, the children need a roof over their head and to the extent that they live with their mother her need to be accommodated and theirs coincide. What this means in practice is that the mother's claim to have the matrimonial home transferred into her sole name is immeasurably stronger than the father's in the majority of cases. This is one of the main reasons why orders for the transfer of the matrimonial home into the sole name of the wife are so common.

Please continue in order to find out more about the custody of children, access to chldren etc.



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