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Child Custody Rights

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 23 Jul 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
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.

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My husband and I split up a year ago we have two children. At the time of us separating our daughter was two years and one month and our son was two and a half months old. Since we have separated the children live with me and I have full responsibility for them. The children see their dad on a Saturday overnight (a full 24 hours). He has suggested that in about six months - when he has found a new place to live (he currently lives with his sister), he will be looking to share responsibility. Whilst he is a loving dad, practically he finds it tough abd the children are always very tired and irritable when they come back from his. He works full time. Although I work full time, I work for myself and am flexible so do about half of my hours from home when the children are in bed. The children are extremely settled and happy and I'm worried about the affect a big change would have on them. I was wondering if I had any rights as the children have been with me for a year (and aix months by the time he can share responsibility). Thanks for your help
Yesiknow - 23-Jul-16 @ 8:07 PM
My husband and I split up a year ago we have two children. At the time of us separating our daughter was two years and one month and our son was two and a half months old. Since we have separated the children live with me and I have full responsibility for them. The children see their dad on a Saturday overnight (a full 24 hours). He has suggested that in about six months - when he has found a new place to live (he currently lives with his sister), he will be looking to share responsibility. Whilst he is a loving dad, practically he finds it tough abd the children are always very tired and irritable when they come back from his. He works full time. Although I work full time, I work for myself and am flexible so do about half of my hours from home when the children are in bed. The children are extremely settled and happy and I'm worried about the affect a big change would have on them. I was wondering if I had any rights as the children have been with me for a year (and aix months by the time he can share responsibility). Thanks for your help
Yesiknow - 23-Jul-16 @ 8:07 PM
My husband and I split up a year ago we have two children. At the time of us separating our daughter was two years and one month and our son was two and a half months old. Since we have separated the children live with me and I have full responsibility for them. The children see their dad on a Saturday overnight (a full 24 hours). He has suggested that in about six months - when he has found a new place to live (he currently lives with his sister), he will be looking to share responsibility. Whilst he is a loving dad, practically he finds it tough abd the children are always very tired and irritable when they come back from his. He works full time. Although I work full time, I work for myself and am flexible so do about half of my hours from home when the children are in bed. The children are extremely settled and happy and I'm worried about the affect a big change would have on them. I was wondering if I had any rights as the children have been with me for a year (and aix months by the time he can share responsibility). Thanks for your help
Yesiknow - 23-Jul-16 @ 8:06 PM
Hi,isplit with my partner of 4 years in feb,we have 2 daughters,1 biological,social services got involved because of her new partner,asafety plan was put up where he wasn't allowed near the kids,a case came up involving her new partner assaulting me infront of the youngest daughter and she tried to get me to change my statement to help him which i refused and informed the local authority,she has since refused me from having contact with my daughter ,what should i do
Anonymous p - 19-Jul-16 @ 5:17 PM
My ex son in law has full custody of my granddaughter he won't let my daughter have any access he won't even turn up in court to discuss this oi r when there's been court dates what can we do
None - 14-Jul-16 @ 7:14 PM
Hi, My ex is taking me to court for full custody and he has lied the whole way through saying I abuse our son, I physically harm and neglect him. Social services don't feel there's a need to get involved as my Sons previous and current childcare have had no concerns. However, caffcass are doing a section 7 report. All my ex has is a picture of a scratch on my sons back. How can someone get so far through lies? It scares me that there is a chance I could lose my son.
S.s - 9-Jul-16 @ 7:51 PM
My husband's ex works long hours and he stays at his aunties 5-6 days a week and only stays at his mums 1-2 days. We currentlysee him 1 night every 2 weeks. We are thinking of going back to court to get joint custody do you think we have a case?
Dani - 9-Jul-16 @ 6:49 PM
H - Your Question:
Hi.my ex is taking myself too court for full custody of my children.i suffered domestic violence via him and numerous occasions he had access he failed too bring them home or even got them too school.what chance does he have of full custody?

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot predict what a court may decide. However, unless absolutely necessary a court will not take children from one parent and hand them over to another . For a court to do this there has to be a very good reason.
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Jul-16 @ 12:58 PM
Hi..my ex is taking myself too court for full custody of my children..i suffered domestic violence via him and numerous occasions he had access he failed too bring them home or even got them too school...what chance does he have of full custody?
H - 6-Jul-16 @ 2:59 PM
Louise - Your Question:
Long story short: I split with my partner, we have 2 kids. He stopped attending speech therapy appointments as he said 'it wasn't important' he missed swimming lessons. so I changed the appointment dates around to my days so I could take him. But now he's lashing out infront of the kids, he's threatening my life, my house. and I can't deal with it anymore. I need a solicitor but unsure I can afford one! Would I get any help as I'm a single working mum?

Our Response:
If your ex is intimidating, bullying, threatening or harassing you, then it may be the police you need to inform, please see link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 30-Jun-16 @ 11:15 AM
Zooe - Your Question:
My sister of 17 has a 1 year old daughter, they are both in foster care. She's not aloud out the house with or without the baby, numerous court cases as to what's happening in the process. The foster carer is trying everything she can to get the baby taken off my sister. Social workers and foster carer are all sticking pressure and bullying my sister I believe. She has not had the chance to step up and be a mum because too many people are involved giving her a hard time pressuring her. It's not fair at all. What can be done? How can we keep the baby in the family? Everyone is falling apart. It's wrong to take a baby from her family.

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot advise on this as the matter is with the authorities and we have no knowledge of the situation. I can only suggest professional legal advice is sought.
ChildSupportLaws - 29-Jun-16 @ 2:46 PM
Long story short: I split with my partner, we have 2 kids. He stopped attending speech therapy appointments as he said 'it wasn't important' he missed swimming lessons.. so I changed the appointment dates around to my days so I could take him. But now he's lashing out infront of the kids, he's threatening my life, my house.. and I can't deal with it anymore. I need a solicitorbut unsure I can afford one! Would I get any help as I'm a single working mum?
Louise - 29-Jun-16 @ 1:33 PM
Steve - Your Question:
I have split from my girlfriend of 6 years after finding out she cheated. We have a 6 month old baby girl who I adore. Upto now I am having her every weekend although I want her more a week each as she is growing. The week I would have her my sister her aunty would look after her in the day while I work but she objects. Now I have recieved a written letter from her to say I can only have the child every other weekend. Also not to contact her in the week regarding our child( I text each morning and evening to see if she slept well and has had a good day nothing more). Were do I stand?? What can I do to keep seeing my child every weekend and potentially more??? The claws have come out now and my ex is getting more and more nasty to prevent me access to my child. Any advice would help

Our Response:
Your options are to either resolve the matter between you or suggest mediation. Mediation is when two or more parties meet to resolve problems before the matter reaches court. It is most often used in family proceedings and is a formal negotiation. The courts can accept the agreement of the mediation instead of having to go through the court process, although it is subject to final court approval. 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. They will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and helping you reach a decision 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 your ex either refuses to attend, or attends and you still cannot agree, then your last option would be to take the matter to court. However, in the long run it would be more advisable if you can re-negotiate with your ex if you can.
ChildSupportLaws - 29-Jun-16 @ 11:58 AM
My sister of 17 has a 1 year old daughter, they are both in foster care. She's not aloud out the house with or without the baby, numerous court cases as to what's happening in the process. The foster carer is trying everything she can to get the baby taken off my sister. Social workers and foster carer are all sticking pressure and bullying my sister I believe. She has not had the chance to step up and be a mum because too many people are involved giving her a hard time pressuring her. It's not fair at all. What can be done? How can we keep the baby in the family? Everyone is falling apart. It's wrong to take a baby from her family.
Zooe - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:33 AM
I have split from my girlfriend of 6 years after finding out she cheated. We have a 6 month old baby girl who i adore. Upto now i am having her every weekend although i want her more a week each as she is growing. The week i would have her my sister her aunty would look after her in the day while i work but she objects. Now i have recieved a written letter from her to say i can only have the child every other weekend. Also not to contact her in the week regarding our child( i text each morning and evening to see if she slept well and has had a good day nothing more). Were do i stand?? What can i do to keep seeing my child every weekend and potentially more??? The claws have come out now and my ex is getting more and more nasty to prevent me access to my child. Any advice would help
Steve - 28-Jun-16 @ 11:43 AM
Shacker - Your Question:
HelloI am a Father of an 8 year old boy and I currently have a shared residency order from 2013. I have overnight access alternate weekends Fri pm to Mon am, half of his school holidays and have him for his tea every Wednesday and Thursday until 6.30pm.I wish to now have full joint custody for a variety of reasons including there is no other male role model in his life other than his school headmaster, also when he’s staying with his Mother he sleeps with her in her bed rather than in his own room and bed as he does when he’s with me and my thoughts are that if he stayed with me each Wed and Thurs night instead of returning to his Mother it would mean we had equal access, it would cause little or no disruption to his routine, it would be something he would welcome as he constantly asks to spend more time with me and finally it would mean that I do not have to go to his mother and, effectively, beg each time he asks to stay a little longer.How difficult is it to change an order please?Cheers

Our Response:
If the mother does not agree to any suggestion made then you would have to take the matter to court by applying to vary the order. However, if it goes to court, the court will make a decision on what it thinks is in the best interests of your child, meaning there is no guarantee this extra time would be awarded to you. If the court order was issued in 2013, you would also have to have a good reason to wish to change the order. Therefore, I suggest you seek legal advice regarding this matter to see whether you have a valid case to answer.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Jun-16 @ 11:45 AM
Alex - Your Question:
Ok so I'm 20 weeks pregnant my boyfriend of 5 years wants termination or we split and then says he wants joint custody if Im continuing with pregnancy. Which is good. However my concern is when the baby is born I am planning on breast feeding and obviously won't want to leave a newborn at such a young age and most definitley not overnight. HELP!

Our Response:
In a situation such as this, one option is to put in place some arrangements prior to the birth. So, discussing these issues with your boyfriend is the obvious and best way forward. Likewise, once you have your child you will not know how you will feel, so all I can suggest is you ask your ex to be understanding regarding this. Mediation may also help you if you cannot resolve such issues.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Jun-16 @ 11:00 AM
Hello I am a Father of an 8 year old boy and I currently have a shared residency order from 2013. I have overnight access alternate weekends Fri pm to Mon am, half of his school holidays and have him for his tea every Wednesday and Thursday until 6.30pm. I wish to now have full joint custody for a variety of reasons including there is no other male role model in his life other than his school headmaster, also when he’s staying with his Mother he sleeps with her in her bed rather than in his own room and bed as he does when he’s with me and my thoughts are that if he stayed with me each Wed and Thurs night instead of returning to his Mother it would mean we had equal access, it would cause little or no disruption to his routine, it would be something he would welcome as he constantly asks to spend more time with me and finally it would mean that I do not have to go to his mother and, effectively, beg each time he asks to stay a little longer. How difficult is it to change an order please? Cheers
Shacker - 26-Jun-16 @ 1:40 PM
Ok so I'm 20 weeks pregnant my boyfriend of 5 years wants termination or we split and then says he wants joint custody if Im continuing with pregnancy. Which is good.However my concern is when the baby is born I am planning on breast feeding and obviously won't want to leave a newborn at such a young age and most definitley not overnight.HELP!
Alex - 26-Jun-16 @ 8:25 AM
DC - Your Question:
Can a child custody be changed without going to court? My son's (who is 9 year old) mother wants me to have full custody of my son because of his behavioural issues. I am happy to have him but I want to go to court to make it legally binding but she don't. She has in the past given him to me on a verbal agreement and then after a couple months came back for him. I don't want this situation again. What are my options because she is adamant she doesn't want to go to court?

Our Response:
Have you thought of suggesting mediation? This is a good approach if you wish to draw up an agreement. 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. They will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and helping you reach a decision 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. It is a formal negotiation and courts can accept the agreement of the mediation instead of having to go through the court process, although it is subject to final court approval. However, as there is no court order involved, the agreement is less official and can be changed by the two sides at a later date.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Jun-16 @ 10:38 AM
Hello, for me this question is very important. What should i do?.. I have a daughter 20month old. I split with her father when she was 1year old( he left becouse he had another girlfrend for more then 3 month till now). He is Self employed, but not registred, he is a driver lithuania- uk. He don't have fixed incomes. I let him and He came to see his daughter every time, when he is In the uk. Sometimes he saying that he will take my daughter from me and never give me back. Or will come his friends and will do something.or he will take daughter if i will stated to have new relationship( but he is allready engage). I'm full time worker. I pay to babysiter. He giving some money, but they a for credit card, thouse money he been using for his"bussines",when we been In relationship. So i looking after me daughter "100%". I living and working full time 5years In uk. Is any support, anything that he would able to see daughter In this time, when i am with her? I worry go to visit my parents In Lithuania, becouse what if he will take her and not give me back... Thank you.
... - 22-Jun-16 @ 10:43 PM
Can a child custody be changed without going to court? My son's (who is 9 year old) mother wants me to have full custody of my son because of his behavioural issues. I am happy to have him but I want to go to court to make it legally binding but she don't. She has in the past given him to me on a verbal agreement and then after a couple months came back for him. I don't want this situation again. What are my options because she is adamant she doesn't want to go to court?
DC - 22-Jun-16 @ 10:47 AM
Libby - Your Question:
My 3 children have just been put onto a cp plan under the category of neglect my ex partner took my son for a arranged contact and never returned him I have aplied to the courts for a residency order I am only on a cp plan due to aligations made about me from my partners friend and police so on a cp plan to prove these aligations are not true what are my chances of me getting a residency order as I am my sons main carer and he has been with me since birth and his siblings are so destrought I have never stopped him seeing our son in fact I inforse it. I hd anoyher cp in 2015 to witchmy ex never attended and was never consistent in his contact my door is open 24/7 I have mot seen or spoke to my 3y3ar old son in 26 days or seen him as my ex has had me arr3sted for harassment coz I was texting him to see my baby or speak to him on cp plan there are no concerns for our son on praised as he is very advanced even when my ex didnt see him for 6 weeks a time I still kept him alive in albees heart as his hero m6 ex works full time and lives in a 2 bed property with 2 primary school aged girl I miss him so much

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. However, we cannot predict what a court may decide, especially if there are complications and social services are involved. However, if no allegations were reported, then this will obviously go in your favour. Much will also depend on what goes into the Cafcass report and the judge will usually adhere closely to the report's recommendations. The court will always decide on what is in the best interests of your child and stability and consistency are the most important factors it takes into account.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Jun-16 @ 3:06 PM
saphy - Your Question:
Hi I need advice i split from my childrens dad for a few years now , for tne first few months he was seeing them. after a few months I had to stop him seeing my children as he was lying to me and his children. he has never paid a penny for them. and I have never pushed for csa and dont wish to. 2 years ago he left my home town and I dont know where he is. my question is could I apply for sole parenting also my children want to change their names legally, could I please have advice as I dont know what to do !

Our Response:
If you wish to change your childrens' names and your ex has parental responsibility, then you would have to ask for his consent, or at least prove that you have attempted to locate him, please see link here. It is very rare the courts will absolve a parent of their PR unless absolutely necessary. To find out whether you may have a case, I suggest you seek legal advice.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Jun-16 @ 2:04 PM
@maya - It is a big ask to request that the father of your child renounces custody of his child. As your husband has given his consent for you to move to the UK (which is a generous offer on his part as if he wanted he could be awkward and try and make you stay). There are many British women stuck in foreign countries with no hope of return because their ex wont give consent - then you could at least agree to allow him time with his child when he returns.
Patsy - 21-Jun-16 @ 12:07 PM
My 3 children have just been put onto a cp plan under the category of neglect my ex partnertook my son for a arranged contact and never returned him I have aplied to the courts for a residency order I am only on a cpplan due to aligations made about me from my partners friend and police so on a cp plan to prove these aligations are not true what are my chances of me getting a residency order as I am my sons main carer and he has been withme since birth and his siblings are so destrought I have never stopped him seeing our son in fact I inforse it. I hd anoyher cp in 2015 to witchmy ex never attended and was never consistent in his contact my door is open 24/7 I have mot seen or spoke to my 3y3ar old son in 26 days or seen him as my ex has had me arr3sted for harassment coz I was texting him to see my baby or speak to him on cp plan there are no concerns for our son on praised as he is very advanced even when my ex didnt see him for 6 weeks a time I still kept him alive in albees heart as his hero m6 ex works full time and lives in a 2 bed property with 2 primary school aged girl I miss him so much
Libby - 21-Jun-16 @ 3:45 AM
hi i need advice i split from my childrens dad for a few years now , for tne first few months he was seeing them.... after a few months i had to stop him seeing my children as he was lying to me and his children ... he has never paid a penny for them ... and i have never pushed for csa and dont wish to ..... 2 years ago he left my home town and i dont know where he is .... my question is could i apply for sole parenting also my children want to change their names legally, could i please have advice as i dont know what to do !
saphy - 20-Jun-16 @ 11:00 PM
Hi, I will try make it as short as I can. Just a month and a half after I had my son we have moved to Dubai as my husband has work here and lived with his parents for the first six months which my husband spend most of the time out and did not share a room with us. After moving to our own place he also deceded that he does not want to live with us and vow visit us a few days per week. I am alone in Dubai with my son with no income coming from my side stuck in house most of the time and always fighting with a father of my son whenever he comes as he dosent put as priority and just left us. However we came to an agreement for divorce and that me and the baby can go live back in the uk so we can make a good life for us. At this point I do not agree shared custody as he will not be living in the uk and don't want him to just turn up every now and then and take the child, as well have a say in schooling etc as he will not be there living with us. I want him to write me a letter before we leave Dubai to agree that I will get full custody I really don't know what to do. Could you please advice me, we suppose to leave in four weeks...
so worried - 20-Jun-16 @ 5:42 PM
Hi I am father to twin boys 4 years old I have recently been divorced du to a marrage breakdown. Long story short she used my children as a barganing chip to get as much from me as possible as I cannot afford solicitors but she has her family funding her. After mediation we decided to sort out child aran gents between us at first I only got them once a week which I complained about. Now I have them friday to Sunday one week and Thursday night drop off at her mums in the morning and I pick them up on Sunday for the day on the next week on a rotating basis. This has been the case for the last 5 months and although is still not enough in my eyes it works for the time being. As of yesterday she has decided that when they start school I'm only allowed to see them for 1 weekend every other week her reason is that she feels she will not see them enough as they will be at school. As you may imagine I hit the roof and stated quite clearly that they live with her so she sees then everyday and that she is being selfish and vindictive as this is not in the best interest of my boys who regally cry when I drop them off and tell me they miss me in front of her. It breaks my heart but I have no clue what to do I cannot afford solicitors and have no idea where I stand legally. Being dyslexic I struggle to understand stuff I find online and I'm distraught with worry. Could someone explain to me in plain English what my options are please Many thanks.
Twindad - 17-Jun-16 @ 12:40 PM
tfn - Your Question:
Hi I'm after advice, I have been with my oh for 4 years, he has a son which moved away a few years before we met, his sons mum up and moved over night taking his son with him (not even informing the sons school of this. It has been very hard for my oh so please don't judge him he has tried to find him loads of times but always hit a brick wall. He's came to me asking if we can find him as he wants to see him hes just happy with every other weekend not full custody and he needs my help to do that (where he's never stopped wanting to see him) I will support him every step of the way but how do we find him and does he still have rights after not seeing him for so long? I know we can go through the courts but it can be a very long process and also expensive but the most important thing we would like advice on is as it's been so long what's his chances? Thank you for taking the time to read this

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. First of all your partner would have to apply to see his son through the courts. However, if he cannot afford the hefty legal fees, he can self-litigate, please see link: Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, here. He may also be able to get help with a reduction in court form fees if he is on a low income, or doesn't have savings. As well as applying for a contact order (child arrangement order), he should also apply for a C4 form, which is an application to the court for an order for the disclosure of a child's whereabouts. This allows the court to put a trace on your partner's child in order to allow him apply for access. His case would be highly unlikely to succeed if he applied for custody. However, he stands a good chance of being succesful at applying for contact, especially as his ex left the area without his consent (she should have asked for his consent if he has parental responsibility). I can only suggest he does as much research he can on the subject so that he is armed with knowledge of family law which will help his case (especially if he is self-litigating). You/he may find our parnter site Separated Dads helpful as it has many relevant articles on the subject and a forum where he can go for advice. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Jun-16 @ 11:53 AM
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