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Child Custody Rights

Author: Anna Martin - Updated: 16 December 2014 | commentsComment
 
Child Custody Residency Disputes Courts

In the UK child custody law determines who should be responsible for the care and charge of a child, after divorce or separation. The term custody is now more commonly referred to as residency - indicating where the children's main residence is, following a parental break up.

In the many cases, parents preference is for joint custody (or residency), which enables the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. This option also allows both parents to participate in any decision making which may affect the child. However, if parents are unable to decide amicably on what living arrangement is best for their child, the courts will decide on their behalf.

Parent Vs Parent

Most bitter disputes between married couples end up in the family courts. Whilst the separation and ensuing bitterness will undoubtedly affect the children it's important to remember that:
  • Most child residency court cases end amicably with either agreed residency or joint residency as the outcome
  • Access and maintenance payments from the non resident parent are also taken into consideration
  • In disputed cases each parent is individually assessed before a decision on which parent is given custody of the child, or children, is made

The best interests of the child is the general standard at the heart of all residency cases.

Joint Residency

Joint residency is considered to be the preferred solution as being in the best interests of most children.

BUT...There are no laws or 'rights' that state that a child should live specifically with either the mother or father.

Assuming you both have parental responsibility it is up to you to negotiate residency on the basis of what is best for the children. Many couples neglect to consider this fact and err on the side of what they themselves would prefer (or what suits them).

If you cannot come to an agreement, you should try mediation first. If that is unsuccessful, the courts will become involved and will issue a court order based on what it sees as appropriate.

Joint Residency Reflect Modern Society

The choice of joint residency, reflects the changes in society and takes into consideration work that mothers do outside of the home and a more hands-on approach of child care by fathers. By allowing both parents to have an equal share in the physical care of their child, or children, all legal rights connected to responsibilities and obligations to children are divided.

Custody Disputes

Most custody disputes involve the child’s mother and father. However, in some cases a third party – a grandparent, for instance – may seek custody at the time of a parent’s death or incapacity. If a couple has never married - making provisions for the care of their child may also develop into a dispute. Generally though a court will accept that a parent is in the best position to maintain the welfare of their child.

Unusual Circumstances

In some rare circumstances one parent may be permanently excluded from having any access to their child. However, the court has the right to change the decision at any point in time, should the parent’s circumstances change. The parent is able to re-apply for access at any time, and once an application is made the court may reconsider arrangements after examining evidence.

The Court Decides

The courts will generally accept custody arrangements that parents submit as part of their separation agreement. To ensure these arrangements serve the child’s interests the courts will review the plan. The role that grandparents, step-parents and other influential adults play in the child’s life may also be taken into consideration by the courts.

Changing Or Regaining Custody

Changing a child’s residency arrangements is possible. In order to support the change, substantial evidence of the stability the child will need to be submitted. There are many other factors to consider, which may include relocation of a parent, stability of employment, integration of the child into the new environment etc. Read on for more information about your rights as a parent.

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Leave a Comment, Ask for Advice or Share Your Story...
[Add a Comment]
@ZVGH - Even though you don't have full residential access, you still have rights, meaning you could challenge it in court, especially if you have joint custody. Due to the fact the court always decides first and foremeost what is in the best interests of the child, you would have to argue/prove how the move would would affect her and your relationship due to the long distance, but also that it will disrupt your child due to a change in schools, disruption in routine etc, all of which could lead to you stopping or delaying the move or even obtaining a residential order. If you don't consent to the move, then it is up to you to challenge it. A solicitors letter from your ex's side doesn't mean you have to give consent. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Dec-14 @ 3:14 PM
My child is moving away and I don't know what to do. I currently have joint custody of my child (after much difficulty). When my partner and I split up 2 and a half years ago we decided between ourselves when I would get my daughter. This unfortunately didn't work as my days constantly got cancelled. I was told repeatedly that I couldn't see mydaughter for the smallest reasons, such as talking to another girl.For a year I mostly did whatever she asked so that I continuley got contact with my daughter but as I have now been in a relationship with my current girlfriendfor 2 years and live with her it became to much. I went to a lawyer and gota contact order so she could no longer cancel my days.This has fortunately worked as I now see my daughter 2-3 days a week (sometimes more)Although I still get constant abuse and stress from my child's mum, I can deal with that as long as I get my daughter. Unfortunately I have just been informed myex's lawyer that her and my daughter will be moving an hour and a half away. Due to my schedule I will be lucky to see her 3 times a month. All her family and friends are here and I don't think she should be forced to make this decision at 6 years old. I think my only option is to try get full custody as if she stayed here she could stay with me mon - fri then her mum fri - mon. Keeping things as normal as possible for her.Any advice how to achieve this would be great!
ZVGH - 16-Dec-14 @ 2:02 AM
hey, I share a son with my ex who is 2 yrs old. I am at university for the sole purpose of aiming for a better future for myself and my son while she lives in a hostel as a consequence of recurring disputes with her mother. I am here to seek advice as to how I should go about my issue. I am not named as the boy's father because she didn't want to wait for me to come back to London from university so she went alone to register herself. She also would not allow me to register now apparently because I didn't make it first time. She allows me to see my son when it suits her and she uses him for excuses and manipulation. Over recent months I have realised unusual patterns in his behaviour and attitude and this has made me want to take him away from her. I know this sounds harsh and bad but I have my reasons. Firstly she has multiple sexual partners whom she bring to her hostel, (the place she supposedly shares with her son), the boy lives mostly with his grandmother so she doesnt spend much time with him. I once found a massive bruise on his arm and leg and when i asked her she said she has no clue. |The boy uses swear words now. He was weighing 20kg before the age of 2. He is very aggresive which depicts the attitudes shown to him. HE does not want at all to sleep alone when i take him, by this i mean he does not want me to leave the room at all, so this suggests to me he sleeps alone or is locked in the room alone to sleep and he gets scared. One time I spent a week with him, but when i took him back to his mother, he tottally refused to go. He cried and refused to let go of my hand and refused to go anywhere near his mother and uncle. I was told that finally after i left he would look throught the letter box to see if i was there. To remind you again he swears. Everytime I go to pick him up hes in dirty clothes despite me buying literally a whole shop ever so often. His body hygiene isnt the best when I take him and whenever I take him back to his grandmother because his mom is never there, she always coments on how clean he is and looks. His mother pestered me for money to buy a buggy or stroller and after I gave the money av never seen the buggy, she admitted to using it for her own things. I bough him new vans to wear but they were one size small so gave her the receipt to return n take a bigger size and never seen the shoes ever. Did I mention hes always in dirrty clothes and swears and was weighing 20kg before the age of 2. Ok. When he was 3 months or 4, she brought him to the city where i study in the winder on the national express so i can take him n look after him. I mean wtf, I live in a one bedroom shared house, he is 3 months old, you brought him in the worst winter (december) so i can look after him. Where is the motherhood in that? Now we are having arguments over my curent girlfriend. She call her a fat tramp, calls me the N word and a sperm donor apparently, but she would never let me have my son because I have a gf and she don
mysonismyworld - 14-Dec-14 @ 3:10 AM
@slm - I imagine if the social services have been involved and they have reports on his actions of domestic violence then, yes, the courts will certainly listen to you and take that on board. Also, he can't stop paying you maintenance, so you will need to follow that up in order to get that re-instated.
Nick - 12-Dec-14 @ 11:54 AM
@SR - If you have parental responsibility and your ex wants to take the child to live elsewhere and it is not within an easily commutable distance then your ex will need to consult you. Shared arrangements requires an element of cooperation between both parents and usually needs a close geographical proximity for it to work. The further apart the parents live the harder it is to make sure that the children have a full relationship with both parents, which is theoretically in their best interests and the courts do recognise this. Should the subject become a bone of contention between you and your ex,then you would have some redress through the courts given your shared parenting status. Given the fact you have had a amicable agreement so far, then hopefully she will take you role in your son's life into consideration and the move won't be too far. I think the best thing is to broach the subject with your ex and voice your concerns and hopefully you will be able to work it out rationally between you.
ChildSupportLaws - 12-Dec-14 @ 10:30 AM
Hello, I have two children 11 and 8. Me and their father split due to domestic violence. The final time I actually called the police however failed to press charges. My girls were interviewed by social services after witnessing what was done to me.He sees them on a sunday of which most of the time I have to force my eldest to go. He has caused me no end of trouble since me and my girls have moved in with my new partner, even though we have a lovely home and we have someone who looks after us. He has stopped paying me maintenance, forced me to sell the family home, tried to have my car taken off me and is now threatening to take me to court to have my girls more often and overnight. He was always a heavy drinker and would take drugs regularly. As you can imagine I am extremely concerned about him having my girls anyway without an overnight thrown into the mix! I have spoken to a solicitor who pretty much said if he wanted more access I wouldn't have a leg to stand on as I already let him see them once a week, the courts would consider him a good enough parent to have them overnight. Please can anyone let me know if this is the case?
slm - 11-Dec-14 @ 6:57 PM
My former partner and I have been separated for 8 years and since this time we have cared for my son jointly and had mutual agreements over when I get to see him. I have paid maintenance for the whole time.My former partner has now decided that she wants to move out of the area so she can buy a bigger house, but has not defined any limit to where they are considering moving to.What rights do I have as a father to limit the distance they can move away from the current base?
SR - 11-Dec-14 @ 2:03 PM
@rj - if only we all had a crystal ball with which we could predict the future, but unfortunately that's not the case and it will be down to a court to decide if you can't agree on it between yourselves, which as specified in the article is always considered the best solution. A residence order is the order which decides where your child will live on a permanent basis and also who they will live with and who will be your children's primary carer - anyone with parental responsibility can apply. Or you can opt for a shared residence order where your children can spend time living with both parents if this is practicable and in the child’s best interest (just because your wife is behaving as you say, it does not mean she doesn't love her children and deserves to be without them and a court won't buy into this either. Using children as a weapon from both or either sides is one of the main things that makes a separation most unhealthy and acrimonious). We also have a Separated Dads Facebook page where other fathers have voiced their own stories which may help.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Dec-14 @ 2:48 PM
Hi I recently found out that my wife is having an affair and also fraternising with others men via social media including an employee of mine, I believe this has been going on for at least a year. We have 2 young children age 2 and 3, she currently stays at home whilst I work. I intend for her to leave our rented family home which I hold the tennancy for, the landlord is an old family friend also. She has 2 older children who's father she left for me so I am by no way innocent but this is the second time she has broken up her family with her affairs. I have reasonable evidence of her affair but want to gather something stronger before kicking her out. I will be changing my job from full time to just two days a week, on those 2 days I have support from my parents and sisters that live 2 miles away, the boys also go part time to school on those days. So I will have the family home, the support network and an income, do I stand a good chance of getting residency. I would also happily continue to house the 12 and 15 year old with me if thats what they wanted, she could then fulfil her ambition of being a 35 year old party girl who can go out whenever she wants and have as many men as she wants without having to sneak around. I know it sounds like Im very cool and collected but I can not fall apart until I have secured my childrens future, I will not allow them to be dragged around from one man to another or witness several coming and going from their house. Any advice.
rj - 8-Dec-14 @ 3:50 PM
Hi I recently found out that my wife is having an affair and also fraternising with others men via social media including an employee of mine, I believe this has been going on for at least a year. We have 2 young children age 2 and 3, she currently stays at home whilst I work. I intend for her to leave our rented family home which I hold the tennancy for, the landlord is an old family friend also. She has 2 older children who's father she left for me so I am by no way innocent but this is the second time she has broken up her family with her affairs. I have reasonable evidence of her affair but want to gather something stronger before kicking her out. I will be changing my job from full time to just two days a week, on those 2 days I have support from my parents and sisters that live 2 miles away, the boys also go part time to school on those days. So I will have the family home, the support network and an income, do I stand a good chance of getting residency. I would also happily continue to house the 12 and 15 year old with me if thats what they wanted, she could then fulfil her ambition of being a 35 year old party girl who can go out whenever she wants and have as many men as she wants without having to sneak around. I know it sounds like Im very cool and collected but I can not fall apart until I have secured my childrens future, I will not allow them to be dragged around from one man to another or witness several coming and going from their house. Any advice.
rj - 8-Dec-14 @ 3:23 PM
@gill - have you thought of having mediation? Before you apply for custody rights the mediation process will try to sort out any issues you have and it costs less than taking it through the courts. You might find our partner site Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? page interesting. link here. Mediation takes place in front of a neutral third party. The mediator has no pre-conceptions and will not force you to make an agreement. However, they will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and helping you reach an agreement that you are ready to agree with. Mediators do not pass judgment or offer guidance; they are there, in effect, to facilitate conversation between the two sides. If you say your ex is a 'control freak' it might work having someone else to help reach an agreement. Although your ex will have to agree to this process. If he doesn't then that might be the time for you to start the application for a residency order.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Dec-14 @ 10:25 AM
My son is 11 and while he has been staying with his father his father has not cared for his physical well being. He is now 15 and a half stone, cannot tie his shoe laces or wipe his backside properly.All he tells everyone is that my son has a high blood sugar level and basically he has to lie to agree with him.The Nurse that wieghs my son has been told the same and she is not allowed in the kitchen to go past the masses of food biscuits cakes and fizzy pop.My son wants to stay with me - and while there is no court order to say he should not be able to the other parent is very dominant.I currently fear my son is heading for a heart attack. Apart from this he is starting to punch walls and doors with his fists and hurting himself. Obviously the only way to release pressure. I am keeping a diary of his dates with me, and liaising with the school regarding his behaviour and although I am willing and happy for him to be with me, I am concerned with the potential interference of the Father as he is a control freak.
gill - 2-Dec-14 @ 12:43 PM
@evie - Yes, it's very difficult these days and grossly unfair when one person can afford court fees and the other party can't. Citizens Advice Bureau provide free independent legal advice, and can be found at more than 3,000 locations throughout the UK. Our page on Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself may be of help link here. There are other pages on the Separated Dads website too, while aimed at fathers who are quite often in your situation, may help you and your family.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Nov-14 @ 10:47 AM
My Sister and her ex husband got joint custody of my Niece and she lives with her Dad. Her Dad believes he is above the law and does not allow my Sister to see her Daughter every weekend and half the holidays as ruled by the court. He continually lies and has taken my Niece out of the country without permission. My Sister cannot afford the legal fees so is unable to take him back to court. What options does she have? The judge did comment during the court case that he was aware that the father was lying about many things!Can you please offer some advice because none of us are able to see her so she is missing out on time with her Mum and ?Aunties. Thank you.
evie - 26-Nov-14 @ 9:12 AM
@Klou - you need to read When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, link here. It will tell you what to do in the first instance, so you can make the much needed contact with your son.
ChildSupportLaws - 25-Nov-14 @ 3:08 PM
Please help. My partner has kicked me out of our home sand all my family live in a different city at least 3 hours away. My first priority is my son and he will not let me see him, despite the fact I have offered him joint custody. He finally agreed today after he told the police I kept contacting him, the police advised him that my offer of joint custody would actually be reasonable and he doesn't have the right to deny access. We doother have PR and he is not a bad father. But he is now ignoring me and to me this implies he is going back on his word. I do not want any maintenance from him. I just want my baby. Even if that means joint custody and residency. What should I do now? I have been staying at a relative about an hour away from the home so it is difficult and costs a fortune to travel back and forth everyday. I just want to see my baby and this horrible man is not allowing me to out of his own selfish,spiteful fun.
klou - 24-Nov-14 @ 9:24 PM
@AMARN -even if it is formalised she can still go against any court order if the situation changes and she doesn't like it. She seems pretty agreeable to me, especially as she is willing to come and stay in your house when you go away on business trips. Sometimes you get better results if arrangements are made on trust and a mutual respect for each other and you might find she is not quite as accommodating if you try and apply for a residency order. But if you feel you need to to have it formalised I would take legal advice.
Mike - 20-Nov-14 @ 2:05 PM
Hi, My wife has moved out of our home 6 months ago and is planning divorce and is now living with another man. We have a 7 year old son, he is staying with me in our home, he prefers to stay with me. My job is in London with flexible working option to work from home and in office based on business needs. I often have to travel on business trips, during my travel and when I commute to my office and return my wife takes care our son at our home.( she has access to our home). I wish to know how this arrangement of me being the primary carer be formalised, does it have to be court order. In case of need to relocate away from the current place to place closer to my office, what will be the impact on any formal arranged. Am looking for formalised arrangement as I suspect the current mutual agreement may be unilaterally broken by my wife.
AMARN - 20-Nov-14 @ 1:32 AM
@LCT - I'm afraid this is a difficult question to advise on because conflict in EU/UK laws and for obvious reasons we could not advise you whether or not it would be OK to leave the country with your child. I have directed you to a link which may be able to help further and which is provided by the Citizen's Information Board and has a section on EU Family Law link here . I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 19-Nov-14 @ 11:45 AM
Hello. I am a British citizen living in Spain. I hhave a 15 month old baby whose father is Argentinian. I am looking into separation due to him being unfaithful. I have had legal advice here in Spain and they have said that if I wanted to move back to the UK the best way would be to start the legal proceedings in the UK as my son is British even though he was born in Spain. I was told if I were to start the separation proceedings here it would be very difficult to move bavk to the UK because of the custody rights of the father here in Spain. Is this true. What I really want to know is will I get into trouble for taking my son to the UK with the intention to stay? Thank you for your time.
LCT - 18-Nov-14 @ 1:56 PM
@Ahmedpawlo. The courts will have your children's interests in mind when in deciding whether or not to make a residence order. Also, it will only award a residence order to you if it considers that it is a better alternative to making no order at all. The court will adhere to a welfare checklist with regards to the care of your children and how capable each parent is at meeting your children's needs. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Nov-14 @ 10:59 AM
Hi I marred and have 3childern 8,11,13 years old my wife did runawy with them to apply for council house take them to shelter now I am waiting for court day to apply for residence order I hope to gat the children Monday to Friday for school and she can have them weekend iam asking for Monday to Friday because my wife she can't speak English and she not working to help her to study English and find work because to keep claiming Benefit for long term not good for her and as example for the children ?now my question I can apply for Monday to Friday ??by the way I am taxi deriver 15 years now I can work at eny time pleas I need answer thank you
Ahmedpawlo - 14-Nov-14 @ 7:06 PM
advice please my auntdied in august leaving her 11 year old who is now living with my other aunt my auntneeds to get parentalresponsibility so the childs father cant take her he has a very violent past with quite a few charges of domestic violence he is on the birth certificate but was registered before dec 2003 they were not married so im assuming he doesnt have automatic parental rights as it was before dec 2003how is the best way to go around thisas solicitors we havespoke to are confusing
nic - 12-Nov-14 @ 3:17 PM
My 16 and 18 yr old nieces live with myself and my family, their father lost Parental Responsibilty in court after the breakdown of my sisters and his relationship (due to his abusive nature). Since then my sister has moved to another country with her new partner. Now the girls father is threatening to go back to court to regain parental responsibility of the youngest child as their mother has left the country. She does not want this and neither do I! what rights do I have? Should I apply for some kind of residency order? Also can the father go back to court for the same thing he has already been denied? Regards.
Rae - 12-Nov-14 @ 12:14 PM
This weekend my ex partner and i had a row, as she intimated that i couldn't have access to my daughters birth certificate so that i could 1. Open a child isa 2. Apply for passport. I was extremely annoyed as I have paid for my daughters holiday and i honestly see no reason why she should do this?! Do I have any legal right to this document as I have PR and can I just directly request a copy of my babies birth certificate? thanks Gaz
Gaz - 10-Nov-14 @ 6:59 PM
@Rfak - This is a tricky one given that you are also married and have a family and other children in another country. And she is in a relationship here, it's unlikely that you will be allowed to stay, even if she does name you as the father on the birth certificate. You don't give much information about your circumstances or where you are from. I do know thought that overstaying is a criminal offence and if you overstay for even more than 28 days you will not be allowed to apply for further leave to remain from within the UK, and you could also be barred from the UK indefinitely.
Sal - 10-Nov-14 @ 10:06 AM
i am a overstayer student in uk. i am already married and have kids in my country. i met a british girl who is already in relationship with his boyfriend and have a child. now she is pregnant of my child. can i stay in uk and care for my child as father
rfak - 7-Nov-14 @ 4:03 PM
@Female Hudds - you don't say whether he works, or whether you have appplied for child maintenance previously. But this is a link which should help you on your wayhere .
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Nov-14 @ 10:25 AM
@Female Hudds-There are no legal rights regarding transport, it is really up to you to work it out between yourselves. But it might be time to put your foot down and say to him that it is unfair and from now on you will do no more than half the transporting.
JenT - 6-Nov-14 @ 3:14 PM
Just some added information..... He has her every second weekend from Saturday until Sunday. He used to have her on Monday nights as well but that stopped when she started school last year. I did all the lifts then but still with no maintenance. I have always been to one to take time off work whilst she's been ill, also my responsibility to find child care in the holidays, he does have her when he can help out though, again i have always been reasonable and never complained. I just want thing's put down officially and come to an agreement that doesn't change, as all this is causing me and my own partner unnecessary stress and right now it's not in my child's best interest.
Female Hudds - 6-Nov-14 @ 1:03 PM
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