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Child Custody Rights

Author: Anna Martin - Updated: 26 January 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...
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I have a 4 year old daughter who has regular contact with her father now. When she was around 7 months we left him due to taking drugs behind my back. I found out an till he got off them he was not aloud to have time with our daughter. He went though rehabilitation. And now I have found out he back on it. I don't want my daughter around this at all... And as she spends 2 nights with him every other week she will be subjected to it. Where do I stand on stopping contact till he has gone thought full rehabilitation again and I want at least 3 hair strand tests completely clear with at least 3 months apart befor I would even think about letting him have any contact again. And where would I start as to get ball rolling. Thnk you
Iris - 26-Jan-15 @ 11:36 PM
I have an 11 yr old with adhd and anxiety who has stated he does not want to see other parent As he does not feel safe there. Estranged parents partner just moved out. There is a courtorder in place. confused about what to do..
madhouse - 26-Jan-15 @ 2:42 PM
@Andy - I suggest you wait until the mediation is announced. At mediation you will be able to put forward your son's feelings and your own. I have included a link from National Family Mediation herewhich will tell you more about the process and what is required of you and your ex. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Jan-15 @ 2:10 PM
No mediation as of yet. I want to be prepared but don't know where to start, my son says he isn't even bothered about seeing him but would hate this to come back on me in years to come.
Andy - 24-Jan-15 @ 10:59 AM
@Andy - have you been to mediation yet? It might be something you can bring there before you go to court. You can certainly make your worries known and you could possibly request that the court makes your ex go to parenting classes as part of the court order. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Jan-15 @ 3:03 PM
Hi i have an 8 year old son who has had minimal contact with his dad, denied he was his for 1st 5 years and now wants DNA as being asked to pay CSA. I have agreed to the DNA and never stopped him seeing his son, only odd argument that has got in way. I have been attacked by his partner and harassed by messages. The thing is my son is currently going through referral process for ADHD (possibly anxiety) and i have worked so hard over the years with the school learning strategies to help my child. His father is now taking me to court for access but isn't prepared to learn any of this or go to parenting classes etc, I'm really worried about his impact on my son. What rights have i got over him??
Andy - 23-Jan-15 @ 1:02 PM
@Caz - the fact that this is not an upset in routine and it is something that your granson is accustomed to should stand you in good stead regarding a court's decision. The courts will first and foremost look at what is in the best interest of your grandson and if you are prepared to do the commute and have already been doing it for some time, this shouldn't be too big of an issue. However, it is difficult to predict and court decision and much will be dependent upon the case your son's ex decides to put forward. But the courts are much more accommodating of a father's position since the introduction of automatic Parental Responsibility. I wish you best of luck.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Jan-15 @ 11:15 AM
My son and partner separated before Xmas. The have a 6 year old son. Due to the confrontational issues raised by his ex partner my son is now living with me 10.2 miles from his previous address. He has asked his partner to agree a parenting plan and to attend mediation & she has refused both. My son wants 50% shared residency order & to have his son overnight two nights a week and every alternate weekend and to share school holidays.She is refusing to agree to this purely on a financial basis and states the travel 15./20 mins would affect him. Historically my grandson has lived with us two nights a week from 6mths to starting school & his grandfather drove him to and from nursery and part time school from this address twice a week. He has attended mediation himself and paid for an hour of family law solicitors advice and the solicitor has basically told him he wouldn't get 50 % residency as the family courts are run by judges intheir advanced years & that they would take into account the distance he would have to travel. At the moment he spends an extra hour at school each day at breakfast club and then time after school with a child minder.Surely a family court would see time spent with the non resident parent and his paternal family as a benefit. My son is now looking at seeking more legal advice and assistance that will help him obtain 50 % residency,
Caz - 22-Jan-15 @ 3:32 PM
@Mary - I'm afraid if your husband does not agree and give you written consent, then you would have to take it through the courts and ask for permission. Your husband on the other hand could pre-empt you and ask for a prohibitive steps order if he thought you may take the children back to the US without his consent. Given the fact he has joint parental responsibility it would have to be assessed about what is in the best interests of the children - but that does not mean you woudln't get the go ahead, the courts will weigh up all the considerations in order to come to the conculsion they think is fair. It would obviously be better if the two of you could come to a mutual agreement on the situation. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 22-Jan-15 @ 10:47 AM
Me and my girlfriend keep rowing she's pregnant and keeps threatening me saying that if we keep rowing I won't ever see the child we are both Young I'm 18 and she's 16 I have a job and she doesn't who would get custady of the child/ren
Tommy - 21-Jan-15 @ 7:06 PM
Hello There, I am looking for advice on what to do if my husband and I separate. He is British but I am American and living here on a marriage visa, currently with further leave to remain. What happens if I decide to move back to America. I hate the thought of separating our children from either parent, but they would need to be with me, as I do not see any alternative. One child is 2 and the other is 4 months and breastfeeding. I appreciate any help you can offer on how custody works in this situation. Thank you.
Mary - 21-Jan-15 @ 11:30 AM
@Tomo - did you know you can apply for Parental Responsibility without having your ex's consent, let alone her mothers? link here. It seems you are in one of those difficult situations where you don't want to upset the balance in case you are prevented from seeing your child, while at the same time you are at the mercy of your ex's family and their fluctuating moods. It means you end up having to jump through unreasonable hoops, which is incredibly stressful for you. I don't want to advise on your way forward as it is a decision you must come to yourself.You can continue to try and mediate via your ex and her mother or you can try to got through the courts to get your name on the birth cert and structured access. You may find the Separated Dads Facebook page helpful, as there are many dads going through the same or similar things. There was a posting before Xmas on a similar subject which may give you some direction. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Jan-15 @ 11:24 AM
@Abigail - I am not quite sure what you are asking here. But whatever he does in his job has no bearing on caring for his own children. Are you saying you want him to see his children less? If that is the case, the amount of time he sees the children should be able to be sorted out between you. If you don't want him to see them every day, then you should discuss a way around that which suits you both. You could also try mediation if you can't come to a decision. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Jan-15 @ 10:15 AM
What do you do when you ex-partner is influenced & controlled greatly by her mother regarding the welfare of your child? My ex-partner's mother takes full control of the baby & tries to control my involvement too. I have tried speaking to ex on many an occasion but she seems to be so controlled by her mother that she will not take control of the situation regarding our our child whom I love more than life itself.Hence,my ex appears totally powerless when her mother is present. Because my ex lives at home with the baby I have contact when the mother of my ex thinks is suitable....I am a responsible caring educated father who works & provides for his child, although I have access, I am concerned about the process of getting shared responsibility as there has been so much arguing about my involvement & I am concerned that the animosity will end up affecting my child. I am waiting to get my name put on the babies birth certificate as the mother of my ex said I had to prove I was good enough father first. I have been patient & tried to keep things amicable but it seems without my name being on the birth certificate there is very little I can do, can anyone make any suggestions?
Tomo - 12-Jan-15 @ 5:02 PM
My partner is divorced and at the time his wife agreed that although she had custody of the two daughters she would be reasonable and allow good access to them on a regular basis, so nothing legal was written up regarding access. since the divorce she has not allowed any decent access to the girls and we are now in a situation that is so unfair and unreasonable. Is there any legal support that we could seek to make her give access to the children at all ?
Sara - 11-Jan-15 @ 5:05 PM
Would many British women respect a father’s parental right? The mother is not married and knows that the father wants to see his daughter almost every single day. He lives less than one mile from him, and he wants to have a very good relationship with his daughter. The mother knows that the father wants his daughter to live with him and he has the skills to take care of her baby girl as a single parent and would be a very good father if she lets him.
abigail10yearoldgirl - 10-Jan-15 @ 6:07 PM
Is this correct yes or no? In a United Kingdom a mother can make the father of her children pay child support and interfere with his parental rights, even if he is allowed to work unsupervised with small children in a licensed childcare facility. The father wants to see his children almost every single day if the mother lets him.
Abigail - 10-Jan-15 @ 5:55 PM
@joeblack81 - I recommend you talk to someone personally about this who can offer you constructive advice on your best way forward. Family Lives offers a free confidential helpline link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jan-15 @ 1:53 PM
@Rachael - in the first instance it should be agreed through mediation. However, if this is not possible then you would have to apply through the courts for a Specific Issue Order in plenty of time before the planned holiday. It also depends on who holds the passports - if you have joint residency then there should be no objection to you taking your children away, unless your ex decides to contest it himself through the courts. In an application for a Specific Issue Order the court will assess whether it is in the child’s best interests to go on the proposed holiday. You can access the details via the link here. I have also posted a question on this very subject to our Separated Dads Facebook page which may offer some helpful answers. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jan-15 @ 12:49 PM
HELP. i had been told by my ex partner the mother of my two children age between 2 an 3 y/o that i am now being investigated by police and social service regarding my 2 y/o daughter.she say that they have contacted her and have made her stop me having contact with my daughter while i am being under investigated she said they going to vist her on fri 9th jan .i am very confuse about this as i not heard anything from them at all . bear in mind me and my ex do have a fall out every so often if she dont get what she want already she made my life pure hell all through 2014 making up storys and trying to break me down.just dont know what to think. i love my kids so very much and i would never hurt them in anyway i am very close with my children.
joeblack81 - 8-Jan-15 @ 7:39 PM
I have joint custody of my 15 year old daughter who lives with her father in the UK. I live in Cyprus and want to see my daughter at half term (February 2015) but husband says no what can I do.
Rachael - 8-Jan-15 @ 3:22 PM
@worried - I don't think your daughter has to worry about losing her baby - she wont. The mother by rights automatically has parental responsibility (PR) from birth, the father doesn't. A father usually has parental responsibility if he’s married to the child’s mother or is listed on the birth certificate. While she doesn't have to list him on the birth certificate he can however apply for PR through the courts which means he would have rights to be consulted on certain and specific decisions about his child's upbringing. He can also apply for access through the courts. I have included the gov.uk link for your reference here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 8-Jan-15 @ 9:56 AM
My daughter is only 17 and is 21 wks pregnant. She split up with her boyfriend (19) because he was taking meat etc drugs and wanted nothing to do with it.and 2 months later found out she was pregnant.She is with someone else but her new boyfriend and ex speak.Her ex has tried tosplit them up.She told him that if he's on drugs when the baby is born then he won't see it unsupervised either by her myself or her dad.He is now sending texts saying that she's a drug addiction and seller and he has a solicitor and knows his rights and is going to take the h e b any off her when it is born. He says he's not taking drugs but his friends tell her he is even cocaine now and they have also told her he has seen a solicitor.My daughter doesn't drink or take drugs. When she found out she was pregnant she even stopped smoking.She definitely doesn't sell drugs.She has a good support network and lives at home with me so will have help and support when her son is born.He says drugs test will show he is clean but I'm not sure how long drugs stay in the system.She is terrified she is going to lose the baby.I font know what to do. Should I take her and the h e phone and register to h e harassment with the police.
worried - 7-Jan-15 @ 6:09 PM
My daughter is only 17 and is 21 wks pregnant. She split up with her boyfriend (19) because he was taking meat etc drugs and wanted nothing to do with it.and 2 months later found out she was pregnant.She is with someone else but her new boyfriend and ex speak.Her ex has tried tosplit them up.She told him that if he's on drugs when the baby is born then he won't see it unsupervised either by her myself or her dad.He is now sending texts saying that she's a drug addiction and seller and he has a solicitor and knows his rights and is going to take the h e b any off her when it is born. He says he's not taking drugs but his friends tell her he is even cocaine now and they have also told her he has seen a solicitor.My daughter doesn't drink or take drugs. When she found out she was pregnant she even stopped smoking.She definitely doesn't sell drugs.She has a good support network and lives at home with me so will have help and support when her son is born.He says drugs test will show he is clean but I'm not sure how long drugs stay in the system.She is terrified she is going to lose the baby.I font know what to do. Should I take her and the h e phone and register to h e harassment with the police.
worried - 7-Jan-15 @ 2:17 PM
@Azeez - Before you go straight in requesting an overnight stay can you suggest to your ex that you start seeing them more frequently, so that you can build up a firmer relationship with them with the hope of this leading to you having them overnight? It makes better sense that you approach it gradually, especially if you say they don't actually recognise you each time. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Jan-15 @ 2:14 PM
My daughter is only 17 and is 21 wks pregnant. She split up with her boyfriend (19) because he was taking meat etc drugs and wanted nothing to do with it.and 2 months later found out she was pregnant.She is with someone else but her new boyfriend and ex speak.Her ex has tried tosplit them up.She told him that if he's on drugs when the baby is born then he won't see it unsupervised either by her myself or her dad.He is now sending texts saying that she's a drug addiction and seller and he has a solicitor and knows his rights and is going to take the h e b any off her when it is born. He says he's not taking drugs but his friends tell her he is even cocaine now and they have also told her he has seen a solicitor.My daughter doesn't drink or take drugs. When she found out she was pregnant she even stopped smoking.She definitely doesn't sell drugs.She has a good support network and lives at home with me so will have help and support when her son is born.He says drugs test will show he is clean but I'm not sure how long drugs stay in the system.She is terrified she is going to lose the baby.I font know what to do. Should I take her and the h e phone and register to h e harassment with the police.
worried - 7-Jan-15 @ 12:19 PM
@richman75- this is really something you have to sort out between her mother and you, or if you can't do that, you would have to go through the courts to get a residency order. I have included the link Applying for Custody: Court Procedure herewhich may help.
ChildSupportLaws - 6-Jan-15 @ 2:44 PM
@ash.ab - you need to go back through the courts as if you have parental responsibility then she is not allowed to take your child and move away without your consent. In the meantime if you go through the CMA, it will re-evaluate your case and maintenance accordingly. But please press on with this as apart from being cruel, what she has done is not legal. If you can't afford to take your case to court you should read our partner article Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself link here. We also have a Separated Dads Facebook page which may help you, as it has a recent posting on with lots of helpful advice from fathers who are going through the same thing. I hope this helps and wish you luck.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Jan-15 @ 10:44 AM
Hi so my partner and i seperated in 2006, and my daughter was living with her mum and new step father until sept 2014. my daughter is 11 and was having a very unhappy time at her mums abode exhasibated to the point social services started intervieningwith threats of care placement. thats when she came to live with me, my daughter is now very happy living with me, we have just moved to suitable housing and she is enjoying her new school much more thsn her previous palcement. my daughter has special needs and obseity/weight gain is an issue that could affect mobility. recently on visits to her mums she has been weighed and it is infered that she is gaining an average of 3lbs every 14 days although my scales do not concur with that. this weekend her mum called me and told me if in 2 weeks i havent got this issue under control then she will keep my daughter with her. this would remove her from her new school and put her back in a very disfunctional home. now my daughter lives with me can her mum legally do this as it would be just awful. we are taking steps to reorganise diets and regimes . I feel it is all down to money and her mum just cant manage to support her house without the disabiliity payments for my daughter and would rather put my daughter back in unhapiness for her own personal gain than see her develop in happiness and confidence
richman75 - 4-Jan-15 @ 4:08 PM
My friend had a one night stand with a girl from England, he lives in the United States.He didn't want to date or marry her.She basically told him he'd never hear from her or the child.The child is now close to a year old and she wants child support.How do they calculate how much he'll have to pay and what are his rights to the child?
Rachel - 3-Jan-15 @ 10:36 PM
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Latest Comments
  • Iris
    Re: Child Custody Rights
    I have a 4 year old daughter who has regular contact with her father now. When she was around 7 months we left him due to taking drugs behind…
    26 January 2015
  • ChildSupportLaws
    Re: How Much Will I Have To Pay?
    @CeilaParadza - our partner page How the CSA Works, link hereshould help.
    26 January 2015
  • madhouse
    Re: Child Custody Rights
    I have an 11 yr old with adhd and anxiety who has stated he does not want to see other parent As he does not feel safe there. Estranged…
    26 January 2015
  • ChildSupportLaws
    Re: Enforcement of CSA Payments
    @Blocks - if you are not happy with the way the CSA has treated you, you can complain via the link here. I hope this helps.
    26 January 2015
  • ChildSupportLaws
    Re: Child Custody Rights
    @Andy - I suggest you wait until the mediation is announced. At mediation you will be able to put forward your son's feelings and your own. I…
    26 January 2015
  • ChildSupportLaws
    Re: How Much Will I Have To Pay?
    @DICK TURPIN'S NEMIS - The only thing I can suggest is that if you feel the situation is unfair then you can appeal against the…
    26 January 2015
  • sue
    Re: What counts as earnings?
    I am considering marrying. My fiancée has a child from a previous relationship. He has shared care and pays maintenance, never having…
    25 January 2015
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    Re: What Rights Does My Ex Have With Regards to Our Children?
    Hello, my husbands children my step children are 15 and 14. They live with us but still see…
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  • jay
    Re: Enforcement of CSA Payments
    I have a csa case at the moment And me and my ex have decided to come to a personal agreement. What happens now once the case has…
    25 January 2015
  • CeilaParadza
    Re: How Much Will I Have To Pay?
    My child's father is self employed thru a limited company and CSA has failed to trace him. He works in Belgium now but no one…
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