Making Arrangements for Very Young Children Upon Separation

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Each family is unique, and what works for one is not necessarily going to work for another. Many parents are able to agree the arrangements which will work for them and find a balance between the children’s best interests and the practical considerations of having two homes. In those situations where this is not possible, we can look to historical Court decisions for guidance.

The Court is obliged by The Children Act 1989 to place the child’s welfare as their paramount consideration, but how does this work in practice?

History: When dealing with children under the age of 2 it will be necessary to ascertain what sort of parenting the family had previously in place. At this stage of life there are lots of changes in routine in a short period of time, such as sleeping, feeding and potty training. Whilst this will be self-evident to the parents, don’t forget that for many of the professionals involved in advising upon or determining the outcome of any Court application, they will not be in the throes of early years and may have not experienced, or will have perhaps forgotten, what those early years are like.

Childs wishes: The older a child Is, the more capable they are to express their own views and whilst those views are not automatically determinative, the fact is that a very young child does not yet have the ability to express their own views. It may be that a Cafcass officer (Children And Family Advisory and Support Service) appointed by the court will be asked to meet with the family and the young child in question, with their ‘Engaging with and seeing children’ policy, the purpose of such a meeting is to observe their behaviour and presentation, the interactions between the parents and the child and to check that their specific needs are being met.

Co-Sleeping: As a general rule, the Court do not approve of co-sleeping arrangements and will refer to guidance from The Lullaby Trust to support that view. Furthermore, the Court are likely to look towards an arrangement that they can see demonstrably moves towards the child becoming independent from their parents. If co-sleeping is a relevant factor in your case and a reason as to why you do not consider that extended periods of time away from you are appropriate then you will need to explain the necessity of the co-sleeping arrangement, providing evidence such as diagrams as to how co-sleeping takes place to support your views.

Feeding: The Court are not likely to have 3 hourly feeding cycles on their minds and may take a much more functional approach to a young child’s routine, and so it is important to be able to demonstrate the day-to-day routine (or lack thereof) that is in place. A common misconception amongst parents is that breastfeeding provides a reason to limit or prevent overnight contact with the other parent. However, the Court are more likely to take the view that in order for the child to establish a meaningful relationship with both parents, alternative methods of feeding will need to be considered.

Parental Bond: Finally, whilst there is no automatic presumption that a child is better placed with one parent than the other, case law* suggests that a baby under 4 weeks old would normally be with his or her natural mother. There has undoubtedly been a shift in the gendered approach that the Courts have historically taken towards the mother being the primary carer of the child over the last few years and so you should not assume that the mother of the child will automatically be considered to be the child’s primary carer.

If you are in the process of separating and are considering arrangements for your very young child and wish to discuss your options moving forwards, please get in touch today on 01727 845245 or contact Laura Woolard at

*Re W (A Minor) (Residence Order) [1992] 2 FLR 322

Disclaimer: General Information Provided Only
Please note that the contents of this article are intended solely for general information purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. We cannot be held responsible for any loss resulting from actions or inactions taken based on this article.


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