A very “hot topic” at the moment appears to be the trials and tribulations of being a “working mum” or “working dad”. This has prompted me to write this blog about my experience as being a “part time mum and part time family lawyer”.
At Maguire Family Law there are a number of us with children and we all work various hours. We have a working dad who works full time but starts the day later to accommodate school drop offs. We also have both full and part time working mums with also various start and end times to accommodate child care arrangements.
The old fashioned Dolly Parton’s notion of working ‘9 to 5’ is not so much of a reality any more.
But how does being a working mum help me with my clients who are going through what can be deemed as one of the most stressful times of their lives? As a family lawyer at a niche family practise based in Cheshire, we deal with those who are going through a separation or divorce on a daily basis.
The majority of these cases also involve children of various ages where we also assist parents with trying to reach amicable child care arrangements. Some cases unfortunately, despite our efforts or a mediator’s effort, end up having to be dealt with by a judge at court if the parents cannot reach an overall agreement.
Before I became a mother, I could empathise with clients who were struggling to come to terms with the end of their relationship or marriage. Suddenly not only were they uncertain about their future financial security, but they were also having to deal with not being able to see their children on a daily basis, as well as worrying about how they would provide for their children in the future.
However this all changed as soon as my daughter was born about two and a half years ago. Suddenly I was faced overnight with whole new challenges, emotions and a situation that no one had ever warned me about that would be life-changing.
Because of this experience I can relate, understand and empathise more with both fathers and mothers who are going through a separation and how they may be feeling.
Whilst it is easier for me to relate to a mother’s emotions at the fear of having to “let go” of their children for a number of days so they can spend time with their father, I can also see it from the father’s point of view. This is knowing how much my husband adores his little princess and how over time she has become a “daddy’s girl”. I know he would be devastated at the thought of not being able to see our daughter every day, even if on some days it is just for a few hours in the evening before bedtime. Quality time over quantity can sometimes be the key.
A family law solicitor will always repeat the mantra to a parent, “the court will do whatever is in the child’s best interests” when deciding what the child care arrangements should be. But what does this mean? What about the parent’s interests?
The solicitor will look out for the parent’s interest but the judge has to consider what decisions are best for the children as someone needs to look out for them in an impartial way without letting emotions and principles cloud their judgement.
The court will always promote a relationship between the parents and their children as long as it is safe to do so, because they recognise how important it is to a child’s emotional and psychological welfare. Children should never be “piggy in the middle” over the child care arrangements and made to choose or witness any hostility or ill feeling between both parents. Already a child will be anxious at the thought of not being able to see both parents in the family home on a daily basis. This does not need to escalate further.
Therefore while I can sympathise with parents about how they may be feeling and have an idea about what it must feel like to go through a separation, I would not be doing my job properly if I did not provide honest and realistic advice as to what could happen if an agreement could not be reached and the matter had to be left in the hands of a stranger at court to decide.
Lots of child care arrangements therefore can be resolved by considering work schedules for example. Any “lost time” can be made up over school holidays for example. Parents become fixated with achieving exactly a 50/50 split of the child’s time but this can be impossible in reality. You have to assess practically what will work for everyone involved to make the transitions from home to home as smooth as possible.
Communication and organisation (avoiding last minute changes) are key to a good co-parenting relationship.
Finally, I can also see how trying to juggle a career, full or part time child care, managing the day to day household and general life jobs can be difficult and potentially even more daunting if you are a single or separated parent. I can also relate to financial worries. At Maguire Family Law we give you legal advice and options surrounding divorce, separation and children involved. We can also give you practical tips and guidance and offer referrals to other relevant professionals.
If you are a parent who is going through a separation and would like more advice then please contact any one of our specialist family solicitors on the numbers below.