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Child Custody Rights

Author: Anna Martin - Updated: 17 April 2015 | 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]
@Zoe1990 - A mother has parental responsibility for her child and is generally expected to become the parent with care, in the event of a separation or divorce. In general terms, an unmarried mother is deemed to have sole parental responsibility for her children. As an unmarried parent, it is up to you whether you want the child's father to be involved in her upbringing and care and whether you want him on the birth certificate or if you want him to have parental rights. If you do not wish this, he can take it to court to claim both parental responsibility and access/contact. If he has parental responsibility from the start, he has more rights over your child. Please see link of what parental responsibility means here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Apr-15 @ 10:20 AM
hi ive not had my baby yet but im afraid my partner might try to take the baby as i live with my mother he also lives with his mother but will probably get an apartment for himself we tried living together but i ended up leaving due to anxiety and panic attacks which is my basis for living with my mom i realised i was not ready and would rather raise my baby here for as long as i need so i can be a happy healthy mom to him but my partner is not happy about it and i think it will lead to our break up and im so scared he will try to take the baby away. i have no problem with him having baby on weekends and seeing him during the week but im afraid he might be spiteful the longer it goes on can he take the baby if im the primary care giver and live with my mom.
Zoe1990 - 17-Apr-15 @ 9:36 AM
@Busy - it's quite simple - you need to take it to court. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to see your kids. Please read article; When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access link here . You can also self-litigate, see here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Apr-15 @ 2:39 PM
@Tracy - he can take it to court to try to enforce contact. I would wait until the correspondence comes. If he takes it to court, it is likely that it will be suggested that you undertake mediation first. However, mediation is a voluntary process and is seen as possible solution when you can't come to an agreement between yourselves, see link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Apr-15 @ 2:14 PM
@Hlrpsr- it really sounds like you could go around in circles with this one and that mediation, despite the cost, may be the right way forward. He does have to compromise, and as many mothers do, they have to find alternative arrangements for their childcare if they have to work.However, it is arguably more difficult at the weekends to find a childcare provider. I can't really give any advice on this, as it is such a tricky and subjective problem. You really have to battle it out between you or let someone else do it on your behalf.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Apr-15 @ 2:17 PM
My ex partner and i split 5 yrs ago we have 3 children who have always spent 3 days p/w with him and the rest of the time with me over the last year to 18 months things at his house have steadily gone down hill to the point were our oldest son decided he did not want to stay there about 6 months ago, i sid warn him that things couldn't continue the way they were but I have recently stopped overnight stays for the younger two as they have been coming home dirty hungry and with a strong smell of drugs on their clothes and belongings he has called me today telling me to expect a letter from his lawyer and I just wonder where do I go from here do I need a lawyer ?
Tracy - 14-Apr-15 @ 3:54 PM
Hello ladies and gentleman, I'm seeking some help or advice please , I have been separated from my ex partner for 5 years now, we have three children together that are my whole life, we separated due to her been very unfaithfully to me,we have both got new partners now, things were good I got my children every 2nd weekend , school holidays etc , but for nearly a year now I have not seen my children cos I took my kids to the park when she said I can't take them to the park, crazy I know, I tried reasoning with her but then she shouts swears at me calls me every name under the sun, so I walk away to find out she has plastered bad things all over a social media site telling me to stay away from my kids as they have a dad " forgot to mention she has another partner" I miss them all so much , I seen my son coming home from school he seen me and waved I stopped and he said he misses me and loves me, then his mum came round the corner and told him to never talk to me etc , now I'm too scared to even look at my kids when I see them out shopping etc, I was my sons birthday so I put £50 in a card for him threw the door, she emailed me saying my birthday card is now in the bin, what can I do , please help,
Busy - 14-Apr-15 @ 3:44 PM
@tarra - you would need to take this back to court for breach of contact order. If solicitors have told you to will have to self-litigate then the page; Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, link heremay help you. Also, you may be able to engage the help of a McKenzie friend to give advice, see link; Using a McKenzie Friend in Court here. You may be able to get some initial advice from either a McKenzie friend and also through the Citizens Advice Bureau. If you can't find your ex, the court can issue a C4 form which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 14-Apr-15 @ 11:30 AM
Hello, I seperated from my husband in June last year, we hadn't been a couple since christmas but still had to live together due to financial reasons. When we lived seperately he asked if I was going to ask for CSA payments, I said no as long as his contributed in other ways ( i.e. helped out with clothing, school dinners ect), he said 'Good as I would quit my job first'. This upset me as I had thought he would contribute. The child benefit had been in his name since my daughter was born, I asked him to give it up so I could claim it, as she lived with me. After asking repeatedly for him to change it and give it to me (he kept the payments), I told him I was going to report him and accused him of stealing his daughters money, he paid it back each month. Since living seperately he has not contributed a penny to his daughter, I asked him to pay for school dinners (£8 a week), he said he couldn't afford this. He would see her on alternate weekends and one night during the week she didn't go to his for the weekend. I moved and changed my plans for him to see her as he never knew when his weekly day off would be. I have moved which now means that he sees her on alternate weekends, andschool holidays. I think I am being fair, but he has started telling our daughter that she is going to live with him on a permanent basis - I'm scared to let her go to him as I don't know where I stand legally.
1982 - 14-Apr-15 @ 10:36 AM
Hello, I seperated from my husband in June last year, we hadn't been a couple since christmas but still had to live together due to financial reasons. When we lived seperately he asked if I was going to ask for CSA payments, I said no as long as his contributed in other ways ( i.e. helped out with clothing, school dinners ect), he said 'Good as I would quit my job first'. This upset me as I had thought he would contribute. The child benefit had been in his name since my daughter was born, I asked him to give it up so I could claim it, as she lived with me. After asking repeatedly for him to change it and give it to me (he kept the payments), I told him I was going to report him and accused him of stealing his daughters money, he paid it back each month. Since living seperately he has not contributed a penny to his daughter, I asked him to pay for school dinners (£8 a week), he said he couldn't afford this. He would see her on alternate weekends and one night during the week she didn't go to his for the weekend. I moved and changed my plans for him to see her as he never knew when his weekly day off would be. I have moved which now means that he sees her on alternate weekends, andschool holidays. I think I am being fair, but he has started telling our daughter that she is going to live with him on a permanent basis - I'm scared to let her go to him as I don't know where I stand legally.
1982 - 14-Apr-15 @ 10:34 AM
@Lottie - when one parent tries to oust another out, it can always lead to the type of arguments which you refer to here. You can try going to court to get more time with your son, but is it really fair? Your ex is obviously feeling emotional and may not want to try mediation if he feels he is fighting a losing battle. There are two sides to every story - but if you take it to court, it will be up to the judge to determine what is in the best interests of your child.
Sam - 13-Apr-15 @ 1:46 PM
I am looking for some advise.. My ex partner and I can't agree on a suitable custordy arrangement for our daughter. We have tried to come to an agreement but still, 3.5 years later we are yet to find and secure something that works for us both. The main problem being that my ex partner works every weekend (or most) and will not agree to a arrangement that includes weekends. My argument is that I should be entitled to some weekends off. Dispite his work commitments. I have contacted a mediator and my ex partner had agreed to go ahead with this, but because of the fees involved I don't want to go ahead, if indeed it is unlikely that I will be able to secure some weekends off in the month. My question is, does his work commitments exempt him from weekend responsibilities or, can it be that on the weekends arranged, if he does have to work that he is responsible to put in place his own childcare? (as I have to when I work during the week) ..Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks
Hlrpsr - 13-Apr-15 @ 11:07 AM
hi ya there i am kinda stuck .. my ex husband has my son .. and there is a court order in place and has been for a few years now .. but the last year he was advised to stop contact without giving me any reason and im sure that i should have been told the reason why from the socilitors .. but i have tryed to get to get contact back ... i have no way of contacting my ex husband directly just through his partner via facebook and she has blocked me on every one i have used i have been trying for over a year now and every socilitor i have rung have told me the same thing that i have to do it my self i know medation is not gonna work because i went down that road and he never did the medation ... i was having regular contact with my son ... i was even going to stay were my son and ex husband was living at the time .. and my ex husband keeps moving house my ex husband has moved 5 times and is moving again i have tryed sending the police to the their door even tryed social services but got no were with them i dont know what to do any more is he breaking the court order by keeping my son away from me and not giving me any upto date address and phone numbers im really worried ...
tarra - 10-Apr-15 @ 4:17 PM
@Susan14 - you can either sit down agree between yourselves. If you can't come to an agreement, the logical next step would be Mediation. Mediation is used to settle disputes when the two parents can't agree. A third party (mediator) who is neutral will work with the two parties in the dispute with the aim of coming to a settlement agreement. However, mediation is voluntary and works on the premise that both parties wish to come to a mutual agreement. If you don't feel you wish to compromise then the next step is to either take the issue to court yourself, or prevent your ex from seeing your child which may force your ex to take you to court for contact. If it goes to court it will be left for the court to decide what is in the best interests of your child. On a personal level, it is always saddening on both accounts when a couple splits up and the child is kept from one parent. May this be the reason why he is turning to drink? He wont be the first parent to do this through being separated from his child or children and he wont be the last. Ultimately, it is always better all round to be able to come to a trusting mutual agreement, however these issues sometimes can't be resolved and invariably have to land up in court.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Apr-15 @ 12:16 PM
I split from my ex partner 2 years ago, we have a son, we agreed at the time in mediation that he would be spend half the time with each of us on a 1 week on 1 week off basis. The relationship between us is very unpredictable and communication often breaks down causing a lot of distress, I have asked him to go to mediation but he refuses, I have gone alone but it seems court would be my next step. My son has been increasingly asking not to go to his dads each week, and although it is not terrible at his house I think he would prefer to be with me. I feel he feels more relaxed and stable with me. I have a partner who my son gets on very well with and we have recently brought a house together. And my ex partner often makes life difficult eg threatens not to give him back, making it hard in school holidays for my parents to see him, sending a barrage of texts to me, arguing at the front door with me at change over causing distress to both my son and myself,and doesn't seem to think about what my son wants. I have tried to discuss this with him numerous times, and want to sort it amicably ideally mediation, but this does not work as he refuses to go.Would I have any chance in court of getting my son for more time so he has stability? As 1 week of not seeing each other is affecting him, and also is affecting his school work as there is no continuity. I do not want my ex partner not to be part of his life. My son is soon to be 8 years old. Thanks
Lottie - 9-Apr-15 @ 8:30 PM
@CW200 - I am sorry to hear this. I'm afraid we couldn't comment upon what chances your father has of custody, as it is impossible to predict. He would have to take it to court in order to let the courts decide on what was in the best interest of the child. There will more than likely be a Cafcass report, so the court will base its decisions around that and any other evidence received.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Apr-15 @ 11:25 AM
Hello, My partner and I are not married. We have an 8 month old daughter. She is breast fed and I plan on continuing breast feeding until at least 2 as recommended by World health org. Since she was born my partner has started to go to the pub more frequently, sometimes staying out until 6am. He started acting differently a few weeks ago and after calling him up on it said he isn't happy and doesn't want us to be together. I had been away from home for a while with our child due to construction work and he said all he had been doing was drinking. He said he is still continuing to drink every night (though I am not staying at home to witness this) he has requested to have our daughter for the day on his own. Since she has been born he has shown little interest in her. He is uncomfortable handling her and always hands her back to me after just a few minutes. I'm not comfortable letting him see her on his own as he barely knows him and has never been away from me for more than an hour. Also he keeps saying how miserable he is and how his head is all over the place and I don't trust him with her. I also don't trust that he wouldn't just run off with her. What right do I have in controlling visitation? He has also mentioned over night visits but I know this would be extremely distressing for her. Any advice would be very helpful. Thanks
Susan14 - 8-Apr-15 @ 1:46 PM
@Wilmax - if it is a family-based arrangement it is up to you how the payments are organised. However, if payments are deducted either through the CSA or CMS, then you need to inform either regarding the change in circumstance for it to be re-assessed.
ChildSupportLaws - 8-Apr-15 @ 11:57 AM
So a bit of a complex issue, My dad has just found out that his gf who he has a baby under 1 with has been sleeping with my younger brother 17 at the time (his son). She did the same thing with him when he was 16, poss 15 but my brother refused to speak to the police and it was dropped, and my dad tried to move on (my brother moved back with his mum for a year). She is being investigated by social services, although as just turned 18 this week, they are pretty much saying they wont be doing anything... It has also come to light that this woman has been manipulating the whole family, creating issues between all of us, saying things that we having said etc etc So my response was to say I wont be going to my baby sisters bday as I dont want to see her or speak to her, and have shared a message she sent to my sister threatening that if my sister didnt stop me from sharing pictures and songs about lying she would send me all the 'horrible' things my sister had said about me to me... This obversely didnt work.. So now she has txt me saying 'Just to say paternity is irrelevant. After today Arwen (sister) is not and never will be your sister. ' My dad wants to look at getting custody, but thinks he wouldnt get it.. but we have been trying to tell him that this isnt just a straight forward situation. The woman is deluded, and still thinks she has done nothing wrong by sleeping with my brother she is meant to be step mum to. Any advice for this would be great, I don't want to loose my sister, she's under one and has already gone through cancer and had to have her eye removed last year. She needs her family around her, not a woman who is hell bent on creating drama and disgusting behaviour where ever she goes.
CW200 - 7-Apr-15 @ 12:39 AM
My children live with their mum (coming to me weekends and half school holidays , legally we have joint custody), I obviously pay child support, however my daughter hates her mums partner and has moved out to live full time with her grandma (still coming to me for weekends etc). Question is how does the child support work? Do I gove half the money to grandma or does mum pay some??? Any advice?
Wilmax - 5-Apr-15 @ 10:53 AM
Hi, I separated from my wife some time ago and both my Children remained living with their Mother. As a result I have been paying maintainance. At separation we agreed the Children would be free to chose when and where they stay. In the last three weeks my son, who is in his early teens, has essentially moved in with me. He's slept here every night and it appears to be a perminant decision. Does that mean I stop paying maintainance for him altogether? My daughter is still living with her mother so I expect to continue paying for her. Is that correct?
Just me - 1-Apr-15 @ 10:54 PM
Can you give me advice. My boyfriends ex wife has decided I am not allowed to be around her children when they spend time with their dad. This is because we had a break for a month and are slowly working thing out. Ex wife says she's taking it further and will stop him seeing his kids. Can she do this?
Looloo10 - 1-Apr-15 @ 7:55 PM
@Annefabe26 - the courts are always very reluctant to take children from mothers and give them to fathers when mothers have been the main carers. So I would not worry there. If he has parental responsibility and agreed unsupervised access to your child, then he can refuse to hand your child back. You would then have to take it to court as there is little the police can do in this situation. If you are concerned about this then you could offer him supervised access, if he is unhappy with this then you can let him take you to court. The courts would then get Cafcass involved who would write a report based upon the views of both sides. But if your son is settled and happy with you then you really have little reason to worry. If you wanted to initiate things then, you may also be able to apply through the courts for a Prohibited Steps order. A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. If he has threatened to take your child and not give him back and you have evidence, then you may be able to apply through the courts for this order to be enforced. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 1-Apr-15 @ 2:35 PM
@lion - I am sorry to hear that the relationship once amicable has become soured. I have no idea what would happen if you took this to court as it very much depends on the stance your ex wishes to take and what the opinion of Cafcass was, as it would have to get involved. Have you suggested to your ex that she takes your daughter to her GP in order to get her examined and treated? I think before you take the court route it would be better for it to be resolved organically, especially as you have had a good relationship up until now.
ChildSupportLaws - 1-Apr-15 @ 11:37 AM
@Coffee - yes, you do have rights to say no if you are not comfortable with this. There are two ways to look at this; if you can't agree between you and if you think he may take her without your consent then you can apply through the courts for a Prohibited Steps order which is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their child or children. On the other hand you can just simply say no to him. However, he wishes to fight his case to take her abroad then he can apply for a Specific Issue order through the courts. These orders are sought from the family court to determine a particular matter in connection with the exercise of Parental Responsibility. The order can cover a wide range of issues that you and your ex-partner cannot agree on. In all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. You would have to specify your reasons for not wanting him to take her abroad and it would be then up to a court to decide. In such cases as these quite often the courts will recommend you try mediation first to try and sort it out between you. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 1-Apr-15 @ 10:23 AM
@lana - I have included a link to the Citizens Advice Bureau leaflet; 'living together and marriage: legal differences', here which explains your legal rights and covers most every base. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 1-Apr-15 @ 10:12 AM
@leanne -You would need to seek legal advice on this question, as it would be a complex case that would need to be dealt with through the courts.
ChildSupportLaws - 31-Mar-15 @ 9:57 AM
I am a mum of 2 year old son and ex doesn't have a child support or maintenance, if he feels like giving, he gives but if he don't, he doesn't bother. We are not married. Ex had been emotionally abused me by texts or a word when he came around to visit my son sometimes recently. He also threatens me to get custody and I am scared because he has the name under my son's birth certificate. He wanted to get our son but I refused as I had no trust in him... He's an alcoholic, just graduated and have work now, lives with his parents they are all a drunkard. (Before when we're all okey) me and my son went to theirs for a family"s party by a train but One time I saw a weed pipe in their house. They all stink with weed/cigarette and they don't have a car seat for my son and ex dad was driving while he had a drink from a party, I complaint but ex's dad said I'm not a bad driver. So now, ex wanted to take our son but I won't allowed it cause of what I saw from his family.. My child could be facing a great risk and the fact that my son has asthma and he's a 7 month old premature. I don't think his lungs are properly developed yet, I couldn't bare the thought of losing him cause I cannot have kids anymore because I had a stroke when I was 11 and a heart disease since I was baby.It took a greater risk for me being pregnant... I had miscarried before but this child is a miracle baby.. It could kill me if something happens with him. I told ex I'm not gonna allow him to go unless I'm there but ex went ballistic and hysterical with me being a mother. Ex doesn't respect me at all as a mother neither as a person and he always humiliate me in front of his family. My whole world is my son and I poured my life over him. Ex doesn't even care if he's alive or not cause we went to emergency a bunch of times and diagnose with chest infections every time. I texted him when it happens but he just ignores it. What are the possibility of him taking our son? I'm so scared and depressed. I can't eat or sleep because what he told me taking my child.
Annefabe26 - 30-Mar-15 @ 10:38 PM
Hi need advice...my ex & I split 2 years in which I moved on with my life. We arranged amicably with my ex to have my daughter 3 days a week and every other weekend (to also accommodate my ex working hours)i don't pay my ex as i provide food clothing toys has her own bedroom...when she has been in hospital i'm the one who has stayed overnight with her, my ex has also sent her to school when he has been very unwell. I also have flexible working hours & can work from home. I do contribute to other things outside in which she wishes to do but if my ex does not tell me so then i don't about this....to which my ex has now this week just decided she thinks that her welfare is in danger as she returns (as she says when she comes home from my house with sore parts..this is due from not wiping and my daughter has happily said so herself...i was wondering where i stand if i took her to court..
lion - 30-Mar-15 @ 12:23 PM
Help please. I need to know where I stand. My husband and I separated 6 months ago. We have tried to keep everything as amicable as possible and I have not barred him access to our two year old daughter at all. He sees her as much as he wants, whenever he wants to and is able to with his work commitments. He just dropped a bombshell on me and said he wants to fly to South Africa in June and he wants to take our daughter with him. I am not comfortable with this at all. My daughter has never spent a night away from me (her mother) since birth and now he would like to take her away internationally. I am so anxious about this and don't know if I have any right to say no. He is very forceful about what he wants and if I just say I'm not happy about it, he will not accept that as a valid reason. Do I have any grounds to say no? Many thanks for any help or advice you can give.
Coffee - 29-Mar-15 @ 11:08 PM
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