During a divorce or separation, one of the main causes of stress can be the worry that there will be less time with the children of the family. Fathers often feel that they do not have the same rights to see their children as mothers, however this is not necessarily the case and the law prefers a child to have an ongoing, meaningful relationship with both parents where possible.
Contact for fathers
The courts are of the view that both parents should have contact with the children unless there is a good reason why one of them should not.
In reality, a child will often spend more time with one parent than the other, usually the parent that they live with or who has residency. For practical reasons, this is often the mother, who may have more suitable working hours or have done most of the childcare since birth.
However, this does not mean that the father can be shut out. The courts will look at what is in the best interests of the child, and may find that shared or joint custody, also referred to as shared residency, is preferable.
The benefits of shared residency
There are advantages to parents as well as children in agreeing to share custody. Both parents will continue to share the responsibilities of parenting.
Fathers will be able to maintain a good level of contact and stay involved in their children’s lives.
Children will continue to have a family life with both parents and will have the benefit of two homes.
Reaching a decision on child arrangements
Wherever possible, parents are encouraged and helped to reach a mutual agreement over shared parenting arrangements. If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to attend mediation together. A neutral mediator will work with both parties to try and assist them in finding an acceptable solution.
Only if this fails will a case go to court.
If a court is asked to look at the situation, it will take into account the role each parent has had in the child’s life since birth, the situation of each parent going forward, any concerns over personality or behaviour of the parties and, for older children, the child’s own preferences.
Fathers have the legal right to be consulted in respect of any major decisions regarding their children, although the parent with day-to-day care can make ordinary decisions and is likely to have the final say regarding more major events.
Fathers also have obligations and responsibilities towards their children to meet their physical, emotional and financial needs.
Child arrangements order
Once an agreement has been reached on how the parenting will be shared, a child arrangements order can be put in place. This will set out the details in a legal document so that it can be referred to in the future if necessary.
For more information, see What is a Child Arrangements Order?
If you are facing divorce and separation on the Isle of Man and you are concerned about the contact you will have with your child, we can explain your rights to you and advise you on the best course of action.