Ruth Hawkins, of Oxford legal firm Turpin & Miller, guides you through the legal maze. 

Q: MY former husband and I have two children aged eight and four. We have been separated for two years and have agreed that the children live with me, and have agreement about the time they spend with their dad.

We have even agreed what child support I receive, and the fact that they spend alternate Christmases and birthdays with each of us. It’s great! But there is one issue that has recently cropped up that we cannot agree about. Our youngest has recently been diagnosed as having allergies, with a suspicion that she may have asthma and eczema, and her GP has recommended cutting out dairy and also given her an inhaler for emergencies. My ex husband says he does not believe the diagnosis and is refusing to cut the dairy from her diet and does not believe that she needs her inhaler. It is now making me really worried about her spending time with her dad, which I hate, as I know she and her brother enjoy their time there. What can I do?

A First of all, well done for managing to agree the most important aspects of how your separation affects your children. As you may have been told, under the Children Act 1989, the ‘no order principle’ applies, which means that the court only becomes involved with children issues, when an issue cannot be resolved by agreement. So up until now, it sounds like you have not needed anyone else’s intervention, including the court’s, to make arrangements for your children, for which you should both be commended.

However this current issue is causing a difference of opinion. You don’t say whether you have included your ex in discussions with the family GP? Has your ex been to any appointments with your daughter or seen any reports or letters from you GP about this issue? That would be my suggested starting point, to encourage him to attend an appointment with the GP to hear ’straight from the horse’s mouth’ what the GP is saying, and perhaps more importantly to be able to ask the GP questions, which might set his mind straight. It would certainly be my advice in the first instance, to offer this to your ex, in the hope it might resolve matters.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider family mediation, to discuss this issue with your ex husband, and see if you can understand where his concerns come from, and whether you can try and reach agreement about the issue. I would definitely advise family mediation as a first step, as I strongly believe that it is ideal for just this sort of thing. Often in such matters, the disagreement stems from a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding. It is often easier to have those conversations face-to-face in family mediation, and will be cheaper and quicker to do so, rather than to take the ‘legal route’.