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Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Separating as Parents of Autistic Children

Last month, TV personality Paddy McGuiness and his wife Christine announced that they have separated after 11 years of marriage. The famous couple took to Instagram to reveal that they are going to continue living together for the sake of their three children, all of whom have Autism Spectrum Disorder (hereinafter ‘ASD’). You can read more about ASD in children, here:

Statistics have shown that there is a relatively higher risk of divorce between parents of children with ASD, as the challenges posed by ASD can take their toll on marriages. Therefore, family solicitors are often asked to advise on arrangements for children with additional needs and how best to promote their welfare throughout the separation process.

Only time will tell whether both Paddy and Christine will continue living in the family home once any divorce proceedings are under way. For parents of children with ASD, the separation process can be more complicated as autistic children require more time to adjust to the change in family dynamic. Therefore, the timescales for one parent moving out of the family home, or for changing the children’s routine to spend time with a non-resident parent, will need to reflect this.

Children with ASD often struggle with communication and exhibit repetitive behaviors or interests, which means that they benefit from having a strict routine. In order to provide maximum continuity for the children, both Paddy and Christine could remain living in the family home, but in different parts of the property. Of course, no matter how spacious the family home may be, this will bring practical challenges for both parents as they begin to establish their independent lives. From negotiating the rules for housekeeping and the use of various zones within the home at certain times, to bringing romantic partners to the shared property, this option would certainly present difficulties.

Therefore, in a case such as this, where the financial situation may allow for the family home to be retained whilst each parent purchases a new property for them self, it might be that Paddy and Christine consider a ‘nesting arrangement’. Under such an arrangement, the children would remain living in the family home to ensure continuity, whilst the parents rotate living with them. You can read more about when the court is likely to consider nesting as an option in one of our previous blogs here.

If the latter option is not considered suitable in the long term, perhaps because it is likely to cause further tension between parents and to hinder effective co-parenting, it can be used in the short term to smooth the transition to a shared care arrangement, where the children spend time with each parent in their respective homes.

In terms of any divorce proceedings, there is speculation in the media that adultery has played a part in the breakdown of the McGuiness’ marriage. However, since the onset of the new divorce rules in April 2022, it is no longer possible to cite adultery in the divorce application. Therefore, whilst it is not known when the couple will start taking steps to legally bring their marriage to an end, when they do so it will be in the form of a ‘no fault’ divorce application, in which either can apply on an individual basis. Alternatively, Paddy and Christine could make a joint divorce application, which would be advisable given that they are seemingly trying to approach their separation in the most amicable and child-centric manner possible.

It is impossible to completely avoid the effects of divorce on children, but if you have a child with additional needs then it is important to speak to a specialist family law solicitor with experience in such matters to help minimise the impact on them. Rayden Solicitors offer expert advice on divorce involving children with additional needs and fixed fee consultations to discuss your situation. For a confidential conversation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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