With the birth of the latest royal baby, Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, we have seen the first mixed race child born to a senior royal in centuries, a reflection of our modern multi-cultural society. As a family law solicitor and mediator, I sometimes come across disputes between parents from different backgrounds about the upbringing of their child or children. These different backgrounds could be for one or several of the following (non-exhaustive) reasons:
- Different socio-economic / class backgrounds;
- Different ethnicity / race;
- Different religions / denominations / secular views;
- Different political views;
- Different upbringings; and
- Different parenting styles.
Taking the first example, sometimes parents differ over whether their child should be State or private school educated. These views are often influenced by whether the parents themselves were State or privately educated. In the case of the latter, there may also be a dispute about whether a child should be a boarder or a day pupil.
In terms of the example of different ethnicity / race, there may be a dispute about where the child should live, for example in the UK or the country of origin of one of the parents. There may be a dispute about whether a child should learn the language of the country of origin of one of the parents, if applicable, when that may mean the child has less time to do other activities.
Usually when parents are married or in a cohabiting relationship, such differences can be dealt with amicably, but if and when parents separate, such differences can cause tensions and arguments. If parents who share parental responsibility for their child cannot agree on such fundamental issues, it is possible for an application to the court to be made for what is called a specific issue order for the court to decide the issue. The court will have as its paramount concern the child’s welfare.
It would be sensible to try to head off such areas for possible disagreement as soon as they arise, by discussing matters in a constructive fashion. Going to court is a last resort and the court will expect parents to make every effort to try to resolve matters sensibly before taking this route. One way to try to resolve matters constructively would be in family mediation, so you can discuss the issues with an independent third party, the mediator, to help guide and focus the discussions. Another option would be for you each to engage a collaboratively trained lawyer to have discussions round a table with your lawyers present, with you all being committed to resolving matters in a sensible and child-focused way. I am both a family mediator and collaborative lawyer and have found these options very helpful for my clients. For further information about mediation and the collaborative process click here.
If you would like any further information about the issues covered in this blog or need any family law advice or a family mediator, please contact Sarah French or another member of our Family Team.