What happens to children in same-sex separation

Divorce or separation can be a challenging time for any family. Navigating Same-sex separation or divorce in England and Wales can come with its own set of considerations. When children are involved, decisions about living arrangements, and day to day care as well as longer term, larger decisions need to be considered. But how are these aspects are managed within the legal framework of England and Wales?

Who has parental responsibility for the children?

Parental responsibility is a legal concept that governs the rights and responsibilities of parents concerning their children. In England and Wales, parental responsibility can be held by one or more individuals, including biological parents, adoptive parents, and legal guardians.

In same-sex separation, parental responsibility is typically granted to both partners, regardless of biological or adoptive status. This means that both parents have the right to be involved in important decisions about their children’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion.

However, it’s essential to note that parental responsibility is not automatically granted to both partners in all situations. For unmarried couples or those not in a civil partnership, legal steps may need to be taken to ensure that both partners have parental responsibility. This could involve jointly registering the birth of a child, obtaining a parental responsibility agreement, or applying for a parental responsibility order through the courts.

Who will the children live with after same-sex separation?

Determining where the children spend their time when their parents live apart is one of the most significant decisions in any divorce or separation involving children. The best people to be making those decisions are the parents and there are many options available to help parents to reach an agreement together in a constructive way to hopefully foster effective future co-parenting which places their children at the centre of decision making.

These processes include mediation (including Child inclusive mediation where the children can be spoken to by a qualified specialist mediator) and arbitration as well as informal discussions the parents can have between themselves.

If there is a disagreement about the time the children spend with each parent, an application could be made to the courts. 

For same-sex couples, the courts will consider various factors when determining where the children will live, including the quality of the relationship between each parent and the child, the stability of each parent’s living situation, and the child’s wishes and feelings (if they are old enough to express them).

How do we decide where the children spend their time?

Deciding on the division of time between parents can be a delicate negotiation. Same-sex couples may opt for various arrangements, including alternating weeks, weekends, or holidays. Mediation can often help facilitate these discussions, providing a neutral space for both parties to express their concerns and preferences.

Flexibility is key in determining these arrangements, as they may need to evolve over time to accommodate changes in the children’s schedules or the parents’ lives. Ultimately, the goal is to create a plan that prioritizes the children’s well-being and allows them to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents.

What happens on holidays?

Holidays can be particularly challenging for separated families, but they also present an opportunity to establish new traditions and routines. Same-sex couples may choose to alternate holidays each year or divide the time so that the children can spend time with both parents.

Communication is crucial in ensuring that holiday plans are agreed upon well in advance, allowing both parents and children to prepare accordingly. Flexibility and compromise may be necessary, especially during special occasions when both parents want to spend time with the children.

Same-sex separation – the big decisions?

Major decisions, such as those concerning the children’s education, require careful consideration and collaboration between both parents. Same-sex couples may need to establish a co-parenting agreement outlining how such decisions will be made.

Ideally, both parents should have equal input into important matters like schooling, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. Open communication and a willingness to listen to each other’s perspectives are essential in reaching consensus and ensuring that the children’s best interests are always the top priority.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a supportive and nurturing environment where the children can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

What if we cannot agree on the arrangements?

In some cases, parents may find themselves at an impasse, unable to reach an agreement on custody and visitation arrangements. In such instances, mediation or collaborative law can provide a constructive alternative to litigation.

Mediators can help facilitate productive discussions and assist parents in finding common ground. If necessary, the court may intervene and make a decision based on the best interests of the children. While litigation should be considered a last resort, it can provide a resolution when all other options have been exhausted, but the current court delays mean that a decision will take much longer than the alternative options.

It’s essential for parents to prioritise the well-being of their children throughout the separation process. This may require setting aside personal differences and focusing on what is best for the children’s emotional and psychological development.

How Moore Barlow can help

Navigating a same-sex separation or divorce in England and Wales when children are involved requires careful consideration, communication, and cooperation. By prioritizing the children’s well-being and working together to create a plan that meets their needs, parents can ensure a smoother transition and foster healthy relationships between the children and both parents. While challenges may arise along the way, with patience, understanding, and a commitment to cooperation, families can successfully navigate this new chapter in their lives. By approaching the process with empathy and a shared commitment to their children’s happiness and stability, same-sex couples can ensure that their children emerge from the separation process with their well-being intact.

Our experienced family law team provides advice to ensure your rights and your children’s best interests are protected.