Father’s Day: top tips for separated fathers agreeing childcare

16th June 2023

Once again Father’s Day is upon us; an idyllic day when we have our doting children celebrating of the fact that we are their father. Sadly, the day will normally result in perhaps being made rather a tepid cup of tea and then, as with every Sunday, it just returns to ensuring the children have an enjoyable day.

For separated families, Father’s Day – and Mother’s Day – are often more important. It is common for parties to agree that regardless of who’s weekend it is, the children will spend Father’s Day with their father each year. This is especially important if you don’t spend as much time with the children as you would hope for. Many fathers feel marginalised, being restricted to alternate weekends and perhaps one midweek day.

So how do you persuade your former partner or wife – or for that matter the court – that it would be better for the children if the time was shared more equally? As I have dealt with children’s disputes for many years, I thought it may help fathers who are concerned about what may happen upon separation to offer some top tips I have learned over the years that will give you a better chance of sharing the care.

Take part and meet your children’s needs

It is always tempting, especially when your partner or wife works part time, to allow them to do much of the day-to-day care, especially when you work long hours. However, it is important to show that you are equally as capable of meeting the children’s needs. This includes making sure you cook regularly for the family, you look after the children on your own overnight, you are engaged in pick-up and drop-offs at school, and you actively spend time with the children, even if just ferrying them to their clubs and birthday parties. Help them with homework.

Attend school events and ensure the children actually enjoy spending time with you. Their wishes and feelings are important. I have seen many cases where a father has been depicted as someone who didn’t involve themselves in the day-to-day care of the children, and are therefore less capable of meeting their needs if the care were to be shared. This is especially relevant with very young children.

Separate emotions from your role as a parent

It is common for people to behave poorly to each other in these circumstances but often children can be caught in the crossfire, and this will impact their emotional welfare that can have repercussions for years to come. Domestic abuse is something that the court takes seriously but must decide whether it is central to making a decision about the long-term care of the children. The court process is slow and where allegations are made, whether ultimately relevant or not, it can take months to resolve. The time the children spend with you can be drastically reduced, or even stopped, by the mother while the court considers the matter further to ensure the children are safe from harm.

The delay will mean it is much harder to argue for a shared care arrangement once the allegations have been addressed. It can also prove expensive. It is important to behave in a cordial manner with each other when you recognise the relationship is coming to an end and avoid letting your emotions get the better of you, especially in front of the children.

Be careful what you write

I have seen numerous witness statements showing very unflattering text messages and emails that fathers have sent when they believe they have been poorly treated that would be considered abusive by the courts. Anything you write down could be used against you.

Commit to the arrangements you ask for

If you want shared care, you need to show you can look after them during the week and not rely heavily on other family members. This is especially relevant for midweek term-time contact. There is nothing more damaging than children expecting to spend time with their father only for it to be cancelled. Get proof from your employer that you have the flexibility to do pick-ups and drop-offs during the week, so there is no doubt about your ability to share care.

I could go on but hopefully these pointers will help. Even though it is called Father’s Day the day still belongs to the children, as do all the other days the children spend in your care. It is worth taking a moment to reflect on any arguments or issues to ensure that your children’s wishes, feelings and needs are put at the forefront of any of the discussions rather than perhaps what you want. The two do not always align. If you can do that and follow some of the tips above, then there is every chance that you will be able to have a successful shared arrangement with your former partner or wife.

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