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Child Custody Rights

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 28 Aug 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi I have a son only 3 months old I have recently separate from his father due to a lot of reasons but I have concerns for my son in his care due to him suffering from depression and him telling me a few weeks ago been feeling suicidal and wanting to walk out job and also walk out of his sons life as feels he would be better off as cant cope with life everythings coming crashing down around him his words, he is demanding over night stays and I have said not till he gets his depression sorted and till I see a change in that as he has stressed he is unable to cope so he is taken me to court as sees am stopping him from haven his son witch I havent I have actually pushed his son on him but he dont see any of that just sees me as being unreasonable and to blame for all his problems, I honestly believe this is in the best intrest of our son I would appreciate anyones imput on this situation, Thanks.
Kay - 28-Aug-16 @ 10:57 PM
i am still in a divorce proceedings bit physically seperated from my wife and children. they left on holidays abroad for nearly one month. i tried to contact thme but no one answered. my question : has my ex-wife has the right to totally keep me out? is she not legally obliged to give me updates as of where my children are and how well they are?
yann - 28-Aug-16 @ 10:25 AM
Stuart - Your Question:
I have a court order stating I should have my son from 12 on a Saturday to 12 on a Sunday. My ex is not adhering to this at all and at one point it took me six months to see my son. I have not seen him this time for four weeks. She has once again been evicted from her house, this time meaning my son has to be reschooled at a different of the city, after 4 years at the school. He is now 7. Clearly, im getting tired of this as I have been through the courts for 6 years now. I am back at court shortly, however, I am looking to obtain 50/50 contact with a view to full custody at some point. Hopefully. Do you think I have a case?

Our Response:
The court will usually only agree to 50/50 care if both parents agree. However, if your ex is in breach of the court order, then access to your son should be re-instated. We cannot anticipate whether a court will increase your care for your son, the court will have to decide what it thinks is in your son's best interests.
ChildSupportLaws - 25-Aug-16 @ 1:59 PM
I have a court order stating I should have my son from 12 on a Saturday to 12 on a Sunday.My ex is not adhering to this at all and at one point it took me six months to see my son.I have not seen him this time for four weeks.She has once again been evicted from her house, this time meaning my son has to be reschooled at a different of the city, after 4 years at the school.He is now 7.Clearly, im getting tired of this as I have been through the courts for 6 years now.I am back at court shortly, however, I am looking to obtain 50/50 contact with a view to full custody at some point.Hopefully.Do you think I have a case?
Stuart - 24-Aug-16 @ 6:57 PM
Leane - Your Question:
I have two daughters aged 2 and 4. They see their dad on a Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10-30 until 4 and stay at his on a Tuesday night (10:30-4 then 7:30pm-9am)Their dad doesn't work and I feel he should have them over night every other weekend but when I talk to him he says he has them enough. Need to know who I can speak to about getting something more in place as to when he has his kids.

Our Response:
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to force one parent to have their children against their will and the court is highly unlikely to try to impose this. You would need to seek legal advice.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Aug-16 @ 2:29 PM
I have two daughters aged 2 and 4.. They see their dad on a Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10-30 until 4 and stay at his on a Tuesday night (10:30-4 then 7:30pm-9am) Their dad doesn't work and I feel he should have them over night every other weekend but when I talk to him he says he has them enough.. Need to know who I can speak to about getting something more in place as to when he has his kids.
Leane - 23-Aug-16 @ 7:58 AM
My daughter is 18, the maintence payments for her have been stopped due to her finishing college and starting Uni shortly. Her Dad has always paid her maintence payments that we agreed many years ago. We based our agreement on an amount that we were paying out for my husbands child so they pretty much cancelled each other out. It is now very apparent that my daughters dad has been earning vast amounts more than my family income through out my daughters life. Had my daughters Dad continued paying support at the rate that he was until my daughter finished uni then I wouldn't have any issues. As he has now cut it at the time when we have had to support her so much financially I want to know if I have options to get backpay granted based on his actual income. He is very well off and we have always struggled, he has never offered my daughter anything other than financial support so I honestly think it's the least he can do.
Tmama - 19-Aug-16 @ 3:26 PM
I reside in nigeria and was married to a nigerian woman who resides in London. We had our first son 5 years ago and our second boy 3 years ago. I allowed her live in the UK to enable her get a permanent uk resident permit, having lived there for over ten years. Shegave birth to our boys in the UK and I was always visiting until 3 years ago when I lost my job and became financially incapable of visiting and providing for them. She asked to be separated early last year giving excuses ranging from falling out of love and such. She also threatened to cut me off from our kids except I provide for them regularly and that of cause they must live with her. Recently I have picked up financially and intend to start sending her money for the kids upkeep regularly. Now, I want to know if I stand a chance of having a relationship with my boys. Must I relocate to UK if I can before I can see my kids? if she decides to cut me off completely, can I take any legal action since I live far away from her?
d fair - 19-Aug-16 @ 8:14 AM
My sister lives with my mother and her partner, they drink alcohol most of the days and her partner gets verbally abusive towards my sister. Also, my sister eats only once a day because my mother is not able to cook anything because she is drunk or hangover. What should I do to get the custody of my sister? Because I am scared that if I report my mother to child services they might take my sister away and not even let her live with me.
Riri - 18-Aug-16 @ 8:19 PM
bubbles123 - Your Question:
My parent is in a abusive relationship and this has made her seperate from the whole family as her partner is controlling. They are now moving 300 miles away to be near his family that he's has no contact withdor years and are taking my 8 year old brother who does not want to go. Nor do we want him around that environment. Is there anything I/me and the family can do?

Our Response:
If your other parent is the father of your brother and has parental responsibility, he would have the option of taking the matter to court and applying for a Prohibited Steps Order, as by law your mother should ask your father for consent to move his child (your brother) out of the area. 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.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Aug-16 @ 2:36 PM
My parent is in a abusive relationship and this has made her seperate from the whole family as her partner is controlling. They are now moving 300 miles away to be near his family that he's has no contact withdor years and are taking my 8 year old brother who does not want to go. Nor do we want him around that environment. Is there anything I/me and the family can do?
bubbles123 - 17-Aug-16 @ 1:07 PM
Msboni - Your Question:
My daughters ex refuse to retain her children to her on his last visitation with them, because my daughter moved from Worthing to Croydon which is only an hour away. He is niw suing for full custody. Can he win full custody? Also the visitation arrangements now are my daughter has 5 days a week and he has 2 and have been this way for 4 years.

Our Response:
We cannot speculate what a court may decide. Your daughter should have gained the father's consent if she wished to move from the area. She would have to seek legal advice regarding her options. Unless there are other mitigating circumstances, hopefully your daughter's children will be returned to her. The court will decide upon what it thinks is in the children's best interests and stability and consitency are the most important considerations.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Aug-16 @ 2:54 PM
Mum84 - Your Question:
My husband and I are in the middle of separating. I wish to move back home to my family with my son which is a fair distance away from our current home. I have no friends or family where we are now so would be moving back to a massive support network. I understand my husband has every right to keep my son but he works full time + on call hours. I have been a stay at home mum since I was on early maternity leave, my son is nearly 2 now. I am of course terrified of losing my boy. Any idea what the outcome would be if we can't make a joint decisions. Any help truly appreciated.

Our Response:
If your husband will not give his consent for you to move back home to your family, then you can apply through the court for a Specific Issue Order. Specific Issue Orders, much like the name suggests, are orders sought from the family court to determine a particular matter in connection with the exercise of Parental Responsibility. These orders can cover a wide range of issues that you and your ex cannot agree on, such as taking your child to live abroad on a permanent basis. You’d be well advised to talk to your solicitor first to assess your full legal options. If it does come to court, you’ll need to mount a case as to why you think it is in your child's best interests to move away with you. There is a good chance you will be give the option, especially if you are the full-time carer of your child. Mediation is always an option to suggest to your husband, so you can both try to reach an access agreement.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Aug-16 @ 2:15 PM
My daughters ex refuse to retain her children to her on his last visitation with them, because my daughter moved from Worthing to Croydon which is only an hour away.He is niw suing for full custody.Can he win full custody?Also the visitation arrangements now are my daughter has 5 days a week and he has 2 and have been this way for 4 years.
Msboni - 16-Aug-16 @ 8:38 AM
My husband and I are in the middle of separating. I wish to move back home to my family with my son which is a fair distance away from our current home. I have no friends or family where we are now so would be moving back to a massive support network. I understand my husband has every right to keep my son but he works full time + on call hours. I have been a stay at home mum since I was on early maternity leave, my son is nearly 2 now. I am of course terrified of losing my boy. Any idea what the outcome would be if we can't make a joint decisions. Any help truly appreciated.
Mum84 - 15-Aug-16 @ 10:26 PM
help - Your Question:
I am 13 years old and my deepest wish is to live with my mum full time, because my dad gets angry for the slightest thing, and frightens me (he has already kicked me for not wanting to run a public race) I hate listening to him insult my mum and her family, and whenever I ask him if I can spend more time with my mum, he becomes menacing. Is there any way at all that my little brother (11 years old) and I could live with my mum full time?

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You don't say what your mum feels about this and the reasons why you live with your dad. While your opinion and your brother's would be considered in court, a court will always decide what it thinks is in your best interests of you as children, regardless of what your own opinion might be. I think in this instance you should speak with your mum directly to see whether living with her may be an option.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Aug-16 @ 12:56 PM
I am 13 years old and my deepest wish is to live with my mum full time, because my dad gets angry for the slightest thing, and frightens me (he has already kicked me for not wanting to run a public race) I hate listening to him insult my mum and her family, and whenever I ask him if I can spend more time with my mum, he becomes menacing. Is there any way at all that my little brother (11 years old) and I could live with my mum full time?
help - 14-Aug-16 @ 6:09 PM
I am on a work visa which expires in November thus year and trying to sort out my indefinite leave to remain. I have a 5 yr old son who has been living with my mum for the past 6 months as my son's mother who is British has been abroad and i live quite far away but see my son every weekend when i am not working. My mother is ill and can no longer cope. How do I go about applying for custody or a residency order? And what rights does my son's mother and I have?
Ckp - 10-Aug-16 @ 11:21 PM
Hi, I plit up with my daughters dad couple of years ago.We still live in the same house,just separate rooms. He will not move out and treatens to do all sorts of things if I will try to move avay with our daughter. I am the one that lookes after her(take to school,pay for childcare,clothes and all expences). I work part time so I could take care to school. He has a very bad temper and was agresive towards me in the past(but i was to scared to report him). What can I do to move away from this mess and what right would he have regarding the care of our daughter?
Barbora - 10-Aug-16 @ 8:40 PM
i am Non Eu and my wife and son is British. How can i get the custody of my son. can we get joint custody of the child. if so then can we live in same address.someone told me about Mediation. i dont know how is mediation and child custody work.
isa - 10-Aug-16 @ 7:47 PM
Nanny - Your Question:
My son and his partner split up 12 yrs ago but his patner left my grandson behind so my son has looked after him for the last 12 yrs I think she had post natel depression undetected at the time she has since had two more children and is in a stable relationship and sees my grandson every week they never went to court for custody but my son says she has no rights as she sighned over the child benefits he seems to think he has more right and every time we say something that he dissagrees with he stops myself as a grandparent and the mother from seeing the child this is very upsetting can you tell me where us as grandparents and the mother stand with this please

Our Response:
Your son is classed as the primary carer of his child and the mother the non-resident parent. If both you and the mother disagree with your son's actions, then you would have the option to take the matter to court for regular access, which if awarded your son would have to abide. Your grandchild's mother obviously has more rights than you to apply for regular access, but grandparents are now seen as valued members of the family too and if allowed by the courts can also apply for access. The fact your grandson is now 12, or more then his opinion will also be taken into consideration when interviewed by Cafcass, please see link: What Goes into the Cafcass Family Report? here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Aug-16 @ 2:21 PM
Louise- Your Question:
Hi, myself and my partner split last August 2015. I have since has the child living with my paying all cost of clothes food etc. I have not revived a penny from the father. He has the child 2 days a week to which we agreed on as she is not fond on going down her dads as it is. She is four years old and breaks her heart every time she is doe rated from me (mother). When I ring to check on her she always asks to come home. I am just looking for some information as to whether a court would rule joint custody of the child. He works four nights shifts a week.

Our Response:
It is highly unlikely the court would award joing residency unless you agreed as a parent and/or the court thought it was in the best interests of your child. It is also very unlikley the court would disrupt an existing access arrangement unless absolutely necessary.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Aug-16 @ 1:47 PM
Michelle - Your Question:
I would like advice regarding the following situation: Father gained full time custody of his children through the court and due to Mother's mental health and alcohol misuse she was only allowed supervised contact with her children. Father resided with his children at his parents (Children's paternal Grandparents). Father has recently died and Grandparents wish to continue to care for the children. It is reported that the children also wish to stay in the care of Grandparents and paternal uncle who also resides at the address. Would Grandparents need to approach the court to apply for a Residency Order in these circumstances? Many Thanks,Michelle

Our Response:
It is wise to get this issue sorted out through the courts if there is no guardianship order in place. It is easier to get the courts to agree to a continuation of the order if the children are currently residing with their grandparents. In other words, it is better to prevent a situation occuring by making sure everything is in place, than it would be to try and resolve one, should one unwittingly occur.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Aug-16 @ 11:54 AM
Graham798 - Your Question:
My Nephew has split from his long term girlfriend and left the rented house and moved back to his parents. He has agreed to have his 7 year old son four nights a week but would ideally like to have him full time and allow his ex girlfriend to see him at weekends. How would he go about this, she is obviously going to object.

Our Response:
Your nephew would have to take legal advice or suggest mediation, if his ex will not agree to this and your nephew is insistant. If his child is living with his mother and his mother has offered your nephew four nights per week, it is still unlikely a court would change the residency of the child, unless absolutely necessary, and more so if your nephew has no place of his own to reside. The fact both parents are sharing the care is generally seen as the ideal solution, giving both parents an equal and balanced share to the upbringing of the child. If your nephew tries to the matter further without a valid reason, it could backfire.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Aug-16 @ 11:44 AM
My son and his partner split up 12 yrs ago but his patner left my grandson behind so my son has looked after him for the last 12 yrs i think she had post natel depression undetected at the time she has since had two more children and is in a stable relationship and sees my grandson every week they never went to court for custody but my son says she has no rights as she sighned over the child benefits he seems to think he has more right and every time we say something that he dissagrees with he stops myself as a grandparent and the mother from seeing the child this is very upsetting can you tell me where us as grandparentsand the mother stand with this please
Nanny - 9-Aug-16 @ 11:32 PM
Hi, myself and my partner split last August 2015. I have since has the child living with my paying all cost of clothes food etc. I have not revived a penny from the father. He has the child 2 days a week to which we agreed on as she is not fond on going down her dads as it is. She is four years old and breaks her heart every time she is doe rated from me (mother). When I ring to check on her she always asks to come home. I am just looking for some information as to whether a court would rule joint custody of the child. He works four nights shifts a week.
Louise - 9-Aug-16 @ 10:01 PM
I would like advice regarding the following situation: Father gained full time custody of his children through the court and due to Mother's mental health and alcohol misuse she was only allowed supervised contact with her children. Father resided with his children at his parents (Children's paternal Grandparents). Father has recently died and Grandparents wish to continue to care for the children. It is reported that the children also wish to stay in the care of Grandparents and paternal uncle who also resides at the address. Would Grandparents need to approach the court to apply for a Residency Order in these circumstances? Many Thanks, Michelle
Michelle - 9-Aug-16 @ 3:15 PM
My Nephew has split from his long term girlfriend and left the rented house and moved back to his parents. He has agreed to have his 7 year old son four nights a week but would ideally like to have him full time and allow his ex girlfriend to see him at weekends. How would he go about this, she is obviously going to object.
Graham798 - 9-Aug-16 @ 2:14 PM
JJ - Your Question:
Hi, my partner of 7 years and I are currently going through a seperation, he is moving out and although will remain quite close he is moving to a property out of the catchment area for our sons school, originally I assumed joint custody was an option however for stability reasons for my son I now do not think this would be beneficial as I feel he should be at 1 address specifically due to school, I have no issues with my ex partner seeing our child through the week, and even continuing to put him to bed in home here, but I do not feel that several days away from his home during school time is not a viable option, personally I feel I'm being fare to my ex partner by allowing this, but he is not happy with this arrangement. Are you able to provide any advice on how this would appear in the courts?

Our Response:
There is no right and wrong answer here and it is one you will have to negotiate between you, or seek mediation in order to resolve the issue via a third party.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Aug-16 @ 2:12 PM
Saba - Your Question:
Hi,Since ive been pregnant my ex has never seen me or the child. I have been through domestic abuse, for a log time, he has not gave anything to the child and now he wants to do a court order? He is a violent and a long term drug addict. Will he still be able to see the child Can I do sole custody?

Our Response:
As your child's biological father he is entitled to apply to see his child through the courts. I'm afraid we could not possibly predict whether he will be allowed access to your child. Whenever parents can’t agree over an application for a contact order, CAFCASS become involved. From the interviews they conduct, a reporter will determine two things; whether there should be contact allowed, and, if so, how much. The building blocks of the Cafcass report are the interviews the reporters carry out. They will talk to both parents, generally quite extensively and since the report takes around 10 weeks to compile, other people can be interviewed. The reporter will inform parents about the people they’ll interview, which will include the police, health visitors etc, if required. The family courts will take on board the information contained in the report in order to come to an informed decision about whether contact should be allowed and whether contact is in the best interests of the child.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Aug-16 @ 10:16 AM
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