How to share your children

Setting up an access arrangement

Ours was a traditional family,  when we were married I took care of the children, their health and education and home. My husband worked and provided for us. In light of this situation my solicitor suggested we follow a not-too unusual formula; the children spend every Wednesday night and every second weekend with their Dad.

Every family is different and the access arrangement of your family will depend on your circumstances and the ages of your children. If you are unsure about what is best, seek legal advice. Don’t agree to anything you are uncertain about. These arrangements are so important for your children’s well-being, it is worth putting time and money, if you have it into setting up a suitable arrangement.

When my husband moved out of the family home our children were just about to turn nine and six.

It’s fair to say that the children found it really strange to be alone with Dad, in a new home. To be suddenly spending whole weekends away from the home that they knew and their Mother was tough for them.

I tried to sell it to them. Before they went to their Dad’s, I would talk to them about the fun things they might do over the weekend. I tried to make it positive. I told them they would be busy decorating new bedrooms, choosing new sheets and bedclothes for this new home.

They would cry and regularly refuse to go Dad’s.

And it was absolutely not a reflection of the love that my children have for their Dad. They loved him, as much as ever, maybe even more than ever. It was just such a drastic change for them.

With a family like ours, where I took care of them most of the time, they were not used to spending more than a few hours alone with Dad. Looking back now, it seems only natural that they would find it very odd to be suddenly alone with Dad for a whole weekend. This felt strange to them.

If I had to do it again, I would have gone much slower. I would have staggered it, not thrown them so quickly into a whole new way of life. It was too much for them.

The difficulty for me of course was that when they refused to go or didn’t want to go to their Dad’s, he blamed me. And how awful it must have been for him. He loves his children. The pain of not living with them must have been dreadful.

Then to be hit with this blow, that the children didn’t want to go to stay at his new place, it must have hurt him so much.

My advice for any couple going through a separation;

  1. When you finally come to an access arrangement for your children, go slowly. Sit together with your Ex and your children.
  2. Together, you, their parents explain the arrangement to your children.
  3. Be firm, but gentle with the children. This arrangement has been made by you, the adults and is in their best interests.
  4. Depending on the age and disposition of your children consider introducing the arrangement gradually, building up to the full arrangement over time.
  5. Be consistent. Where possible, especially at the beginning, demonstrate to your children that this arrangement is important and should be respected by everyone; stick to the plan.



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