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Child Custody Rights

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 23 Apr 2017 | 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 ex and I separated on fairly amicable terms 6 years ago. We have never had a formal agreement relating to visitation. We arranged for our children to spend every Tuesday night and every other Friday night at his although, there have been many occasions when my ex hasn't had them for one reason or another- usually health related reasons due to his illnesses. He has openly admitted he often brings them home early or cancels visits as he finds it exhausting having them. He sleeps most hours of the day because of his illness and finds it difficult to motivate himself. He is in and out of mental health facilities, has hallucinations, self harms and has attempted suicide several times. This is all known by social services. He even refuses to have the kids when his mental health is bad as he says he doesn't want them to see him like it which is understandable. However, he has now told me that if I do not agree to 50/50 custody he will take me to court to get it instead. This came after he stopped paying maintenance because he doesn't feel he should have to as I do not pay anything for my son from a previous relationship. This isn't true though. My son's father and I have a private arrangement not that this should have anything to do with him. He has often complained of having to pay anything and has consistently been late in paying, often in dribs and drabs. I feel he is after joint custody because he thinks it will mean that he won't have to pay any maintenance. I am in utter disbelief. How can he want 50/50 when his ill health means he struggles having them for 24 hours? He is not putting the girl's interests at heart, only putting himself first. Why now? He can't possibly believe that doing this is good for them. Our eldest often refuses to go, it will have a massive negative impact on her already fragile emotional wellbeing. It doesn't make sense. He is not capable of having them half of the time.
Chinagirl84 - 23-Apr-17 @ 10:10 PM
I was with my now ex for nearly 5 years. We have a 3 year old son. I was on my own for 5 years with my older son who is nearly 12 now. But while with my ex my eldest suffered emotional, physical and mental abuse which resulted in social services been involved twice in the last four years. First time while pregnant with our child and second time not long after having him. Never been involved before. While social services were gathering information for the assessment they also was concerns for our son together around parenting and anger issues regarding my ex. Also concerns for my ability to keep my children safe because of DV. Since this an agreement has been made for access on a Sunday 11-5 which hasn't been consistent or he's late picking our son up or early bringing him back. But as soon as I mention it the ex gets all defensive and argumentative. Today (23/4/17) I txt my ex at just after 10:20am asking what time he was picking our son up. At 1pm I took both my sons out. Then just before 3 he ring me saying he's just woke up and demanding to collect our son and have him till 8 pm. When I said no he stated yelling down the phone ending up with him putting it down on me. He is now saying is going to take me to court for joint custody after consistently letting our son down or bringing him home and he's not been changed (came home with same number of nappies in bag as I sent). After visiting his dad my youngest comes in and refuses to give his dad a cuddle or even say goodbye just going into the living room. He is either very quiet and subdued or angry and upset. I have decided to get some legal advice to see what I can do but don't know wether to go straight to a legal advice place or straight to a solicitor. Please help
Last resort - 23-Apr-17 @ 9:25 PM
@Cookie13 - would you do the same if you met someone and ask him whether he consented to allow you to bring another man into his kid's life? Where both parents have parental responsibility, we all hope that each parent will make a decision based upon what we thinks are in our child's best interest. The sooner us men stop being treated like children and incapable of making decisions we think are right on behalf of our kids. Mums would never think of asking us.
CharlieMc79 - 21-Apr-17 @ 2:16 PM
Paddy - Your Question:
I split up with my ex 3 years ago and we have a son together. I tried to stay close and got a bigger flat with a room for each of my kids. ( 2 kids and s different mums). I get to see my oldest who now is getting dis turned by not seeing his little brother. My ex was horrible to my oldest son and he is scared from it emotionally as we can only see my youngest son if we go to the house. The break up was messy as my ex's brother threatened me with violence and police were involved. I feel I cannot put my oldest in such a situation. All I want is meaningful contact but my ex won't allow it. Where do I stand on this?

Our Response:
As with any child access case you and the other parent cannot agree on, you have the opportunity to take the matter to mediation, and you cannot solve the issue this way, or your ex refuses to attend, then you can apply to take the matter to court. The courts do want non-resident parents to see their children, so unless there is a good reason why it shouldn't, a court should allow access even if it is from supervised at first leading to unsupervised later on.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Apr-17 @ 12:27 PM
I am still married to my ex as we haven't been separated for a year yet so cannot apply for divorce. However it has recently come to my attention that he is seeing a new girl (although hes denying it but i know it is true) and has introduced her to our child. Do i have any legal rights here. Am I allowed to habe a say on who he brings into her life while I'm not there? Should he have talked to me about it first? Our daughter is only 2 and she has also said that this woman is her father's girlfriend.
Cookie13 - 21-Apr-17 @ 12:46 AM
I have 2 boys with my ex. I have them pretty much every weekend. My ex went the CSA and told them i only have them 1 night every 2 weeks. She has said that if I tell them the truth she will stop me seeing them.I have tried to get a parenting plan with her. But she refuses.Can I go to court to get this?
chappers - 20-Apr-17 @ 9:23 PM
I split up with my ex 3 years ago and we have a son together. I tried to stay close and got a bigger flat with a room for each of my kids. ( 2 kids and s different mums). I get to see my oldest who now is getting dis turned by not seeing his little brother. My ex was horrible to my oldest son and he is scared from it emotionally as we can only see my youngest son if we go to the house. The break up was messy as my ex's brother threatened me with violence and police were involved. I feel I cannot put my oldest in such a situation. All I want is meaningful contact but my ex won't allow it. Where do I stand on this?
Paddy - 20-Apr-17 @ 6:58 PM
Womanconfused - Your Question:
I need help please, basically I couldn't ever imagine spending a day without my 3 children I haven't done it since they was born! Though my ex threatened to take them away from me and said he would lie in court just to "screw me over" and said that because when I had depression I said something ridiculous in front of my kids something I'll forever regret he will use it and they would give him full residence and I'd get hardly anything I guess my question is what would happen? Would I loose my babies? Would the court help decide on a fair judgement thanks in advance.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear you feel vulnerable and are being bullied by your ex. But please be assured, a court will never take children away from the primary carer (you) unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. A court will always opt for stability, security and consistency in a child's life and you as the children's carer offer this. We all say silly things, but a court will never take children away and hand them to another parent on the back of a comment. If you fear your ex may take your children without your consent, then you may wish to seek legal advice about applying for a child arrangement order which will determine though court with whom your children should officially live.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Apr-17 @ 12:54 PM
I need help please, basically I couldn't ever imagine spending a day without my 3 children I haven't done it since they was born! Though my ex threatened to take them away from me and said he would lie in court just to "screw me over" and said that because when I had depression I said something ridiculous in front of my kids something I'll forever regret he will use it and they would give him full residence and I'd get hardly anything I guess my question is what would happen? Would I loose my babies? Would the court help decide on a fair judgement thanks in advance.
Womanconfused - 20-Apr-17 @ 12:36 AM
If a verbal agreement on a childcare schedule is made between separated and unmarried parents and one parent becomes ill and hospitalised what are the rights of the other parent to know details of their medical condition and can it be used as reason to withold the child from the agreed schedule until more details are shared?
Y - 19-Apr-17 @ 5:54 PM
Some advice please, I have two young boys who I love so much, myself and their mum have no arrangement with custody. Currently the boys stay with me three days a week, sometimes more, I do everything for my children. I have had them for most of the Easter holiday. My concern is that my ex partner is not very well as she has chronic back and neck problems, over the last two weeks I have had to collect her from A+E twice, once I put the children with the neighbors, the second time I had to take them with me. It was midnight by the time we got home. My main concern is that with her problems she is unable to look after the boys as she should. Only today I went to see them at lunch time and they were having a normal lunch of sandwiches, crisps, fruit and yogurts, When I went back to see them at 5pm, Dinner time, they were having the same thing because she seems to be unable to stand and cook for them. We have a good amicable relationship and I would never take the boys away from her, Im just worried about their welfare if she cannot cope. Help and advise please.
Bree - 15-Apr-17 @ 7:13 PM
I need help please! My husband has a child aged 13 with an ex partner from years ago and we see him as much as poss although there are approx 60miles between us and his son. Altogether my husband and I have 5 children. My stepson wants to move in with us and the other 4 children but he is worried what his mum will say and think about it. His mums fiance has hit my stepson a few times and I am concerned it may still happen. Where do I and my husband stand legally to get him moved in with us? My husband currently has 50/50 custody with his ex which the court advised but this was years ago. Where do we start to getting my stepson moved in. His mum doesn't seem to have ever taken him to the dentist,he has told her his eye sight is getting bad and she hasn't got his eyes tested. I have taken him to get his eyes tested today. She doesn't seem to take care of him like that at all and it disgusts me and my husband. Thanks in advance for all your help and advice.
Pe7 - 14-Apr-17 @ 2:36 PM
Joeyliz - Your Question:
Slightly different situation, my partners x is threatening to take him to court, as he doesn't have his 3 kids 50/50, he doesn't as he works 7.30-6, 6 days, he has them every other weekend & 1 night in the week for tea, he's happy with this arrangement, she clearly isn't, she tries to palm the kids off as much as possible, where does he stands? He's constantly getting threats, he pays maintenance & more when they need extra stuff! Any help appreciated

Our Response:
A court will not force your partner to take his children above and beyond the arrangement he already has, if he does not consent to it.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Apr-17 @ 11:59 AM
Slightly different situation, my partners x is threatening to take him to court, as he doesn't have his 3 kids 50/50, he doesn't as he works 7.30-6, 6 days, he has them every other weekend & 1 night in the week for tea, he's happy with this arrangement, she clearly isn't, she tries to palm the kids off as much as possible, where does he stands? He's constantly getting threats, he pays maintenance & more when they need extra stuff! Any help appreciated
Joeyliz - 12-Apr-17 @ 3:38 PM
Kev - Your Question:
My ex has Given permission for my daughter to live with me permanently. We were never married and nothing has ever gone to court. What steps do I need to take make sure it's all done properly? And can it be done with out courts?

Our Response:
You can arrange this through mediation or a solicitor. Or you can just keep it as a family-based arrangement and take no official line. However, even if an arrangement is made through mediation or a solicitor, if circumstances change and you as parents disagree over the arrangement, only a court order can make the arrangement legally binding. Then a court will always decide upon what 'it' thinks is in the best interests of your child and this makes any previous drawn up agreement essentially null and void.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-Apr-17 @ 12:55 PM
Matty - Your Question:
My son's mother is an alcoholic and while she is a great mother in some aspects, her illness means that she is selfish. She would never neglect or cause harm to our son, but I do worry about our son's educational development. I try to do as much school work with him at weekends and the when I have him during the week. I have asked her to not drink until after they have done his nightly reading, but like all people who suffer from the addiction illness, she makes excuses for not doing it. I don't want to go down the route of getting sole custody because I feel a child is better off having a relationship with both parents that love them. But (there is always a but) with the added pressure that is being put on children by the raising of the standards by the Government. I feel that my ex's illness will have a negative impact on our son's educational development and I feel that I am failing him because of this. Due to the illness, I know mediation will not have any impact, I am wondering if it is within the courts remit and power to order a parent to assist with the child;s homework or would I have to put in for sole custody?Thanks for any advice that you offer.

Our Response:
If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, in instances such as this it really is best to talk to her directly by offering your support and to look after your son more in cases when needed. Sometimes, offering to help rather than kicking against it can be more beneficial than dragging the process through mediation or the courts. You have parental responsibility and can exercise your parental rights, so being firm but fair regarding the welfare of your son should be approached initially.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-Apr-17 @ 10:31 AM
My ex has Given permission for my daughter to live with me permanently. We were never married and nothing has ever gone to court. What steps do I need to take make sure it's all done properly? And can it be done with out courts?
Kev - 10-Apr-17 @ 4:55 PM
My son's mother is an alcoholic and while she is a great mother in some aspects, her illness means that she is selfish. She would never neglect or cause harm to our son, but I do worry about our son's educational development. I try to do as much school work with him at weekends and the when I have him during the week. I have asked her to not drink until after they have done his nightly reading, but like all people who suffer from the addiction illness, she makes excuses for not doing it. I don't want to go down the route of getting sole custody because I feel a child is better off having a relationship with both parents that love them. But (there is always a but) with the added pressure that is being put on children by the raising of the standards by the Government. I feel that my ex's illness will have a negative impact on our son's educational development and I feel that I am failing him because of this. Due to the illness, I know mediation will not have any impact, I am wondering if it is within the courts remit and power to order a parent to assist with the child;s homework or would I have to put in for sole custody? Thanks for any advice that you offer.
Matty - 10-Apr-17 @ 12:48 AM
I have a contact order in place for the last five years now, it was recently changed to an arrangement order through the ex breaching the order.My child says they want to come and live with me she is 8.How would I go about applying for full custody. what is taken into account.i read it has to be done before they start high school, is this right
ozzie bloke - 7-Apr-17 @ 4:22 PM
My ex and I have an agreed court order in place for her to have custody and for me to have my kids every Tuesday and alt weekends. She has now said she is moving out of the school catchment area and will be enrolling my 8yr old and 4yr old in local village schools. That school has a worse ofsted report as does the secondary school they will attend in time, compared to the school they are currently in or were planned to go to. Can i apply for custody based on the facts about the school results being worse and therefore possibly damaging for my children who dont cope with change well?
Kentishdad - 6-Apr-17 @ 9:48 PM
Realdad - Your Question:
Hi me and my lads mum split a while back I have him every weekend but now she has a new partner and he's trying to squeeze me out and I don't think it's right he spends more time with his (stepdad) than his REAL dad what actions should I take ?

Our Response:
If your ex is trying to stop access and you have parental responsibility of your child, then your first option is to suggest mediation to your ex as a way of attempting to resolve the issue outside of court. However, if your ex still refuses to allow access and/or refuses mediation, or mediation breaks down, only then will you have the option to take the matter to court. If you can afford to take some initial legal advice, then sometimes a solicitor's letter highlighting your rights and the actions you are prepared to take if access is not re-instated, can bring these issues back into line.
ChildSupportLaws - 6-Apr-17 @ 11:56 AM
Hi me and my lads mum split a while back I have him every weekend but now she has a new partner and he's trying to squeeze me out and I don't think it's right he spends more time with his (stepdad) than his REAL dad what actions should I take ?
Realdad - 5-Apr-17 @ 6:33 PM
Adam - Your Question:
I have traditionally always had my son 5.5 days a week. His mother has only had him for one day and a night at the weekends. This has been the case for the last 6 years and our 9 year old son is used to this arrangement. My partner has now decided to change this arrangement and wants my son every other weekend for the full weekend. This causes 2 problems, the first is that my son doesn't wish this and has made this quite clear. The second is that my job requires me to work set shifts and I will have to rearrange them to be able to provide this. It also means that on the weekends that I don't have him I won't see him at all and I don't believe this is in his best interest or even fair on me.

Our Response:
If you cannot agree with your ex on an issue such as this, then you should suggest attending mediation in order to try to iron out these issues via a third party.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Apr-17 @ 12:40 PM
I have traditionally always had my son 5.5 days a week. His mother has only had him for one day and a night at the weekends. This has been the case for the last 6 years and our 9 year old son is used to this arrangement. My partner has now decided to change this arrangement and wants my son every other weekend for the full weekend. This causes 2 problems, the first is that my son doesn't wish this and has made this quite clear.The second is that my job requires me to work set shifts and i will have to rearrange them to be able to provide this. It also means that on the weekends that i don't have him i won't see him at all and i don't believe this is in his best interest or even fair on me.
Adam - 4-Apr-17 @ 9:01 PM
Hi me and my ex husband haven't seen or spoken to each since he left to go back to Africa in 2011. He didn't want anything to do with me or my son who has never met him. I finally got my divorce after the court signed on his behalf because I dont know where he is and we did try and find him. I now want full parental control due to the fact I am getting remarried. How would I do that if I don't know where he is.
Biya100 - 1-Apr-17 @ 1:28 PM
Hi. I have joint custody of my 2 children aged 11 and 8. I have a contact order which I obtained from court with regular structured contact. Last week my ex wife (The kids mum) had a nervous breakdown and was sectioned under the mental health act for a minimum of 28 days. Therefore for the time being I have full custody. How will the custody be dealt with with once she comes out of hospital? I don't want the kids going back to her until she is fully capable of looking after them properly. What are my rights? Thanks in advance.
Pree - 31-Mar-17 @ 3:55 PM
Jayne - Your Question:
My daughter will be 16 in August and no longer wants to stay at her dad's at the weekend. He left whilst I was pregnant, I have always let him have access at a weekend. When we divorced she was about 18 months old. Our case never went to court. How do I stand by telling him she no longer wants to go or go on her terms.

Our Response:
Your daughter is still under parental responsibility which lasts until she is aged-18. This gives your ex the option to take the matter to court if he chooses. However, the court is more likely to take on board the preferences of your daughter due to her age. I can only suggest you speak to your child's father directly regarding this and try to reach a three-way resolution between you.
ChildSupportLaws - 31-Mar-17 @ 2:10 PM
My daughter will be 16 in August and no longer wants to stay at her dad's at the weekend. He left whilst I was pregnant, I have always let him have access at a weekend. When we divorced she was about 18 months old. Our case never went to court. How do I stand by telling him she no longer wants to go or go on her terms.
Jayne - 30-Mar-17 @ 6:58 PM
Hi, my ex n I have been seperated now for 3 1/2 years we are in court for the financial final hearing in Aug. We have 7 children. At first I was forced out of the family home and allowed back every day to look after the children and continue doing my jobs around the farm while he was at work or outside on the farm. After 9 nine months my ex finally allowed me shared residency of my children because he wasn't coping at all, he was out every single night drinking till all hours which I expressed my concern about regularly, this meant 1 week they would live with me n my new partner and the next week with their father. This continued for 6 months but over that period the drinking got worse and he was staying out sometimes until the following lunch time. The children were always left with my eldest daughter who at that time was only 14 years old I was totally distraut and in my eyes at that time was totally unacceptable and borderlining neglect so I decided the best thing was for them to live with me full time. I was still going up everyday to do my job and letting the children see their father before they went to school. He never argued about the arrangement and after a couple of months I started to let the children stay overnight with him every other weekend.. the first night they stopped he left them on their own again!, but after a lengthy argument he promised to step up. This continued for a couple of months and then one day he turned round and said he wanted me off the farm out of the partnership and divorced me and the children went. The children still continue to go up every other weekend and stop with their father he knows he can see them when ever he wants but chooses not to but now he is taking me to court for shared residency. My 2 eldest daughter do not want to live with their father. I do not work and he still runs the 2 businesses, is there a chance that he will get shared custody now.
H - 30-Mar-17 @ 3:40 PM
Magdalena - Your Question:
Hi I am in unhappy relationship with my baby father, he is abusive to me but I am to scared to phone the police or to tell to any body because I am scared that they can take my baby away. My boy boy is happy baby and nobody ever don any harm to him. I am still living with baby father, trying to sort out all needed benefits I need to live just with my son. I won join custody for my son but I am scared that his father would apply to live with him as well.

Our Response:
If your partner is abusive, you may find the Woman's Aid link here useful as they can give you support and advice via its freephone 24 hr National Domestic Violence helpline. They will advise you of your best options under your present circumstances.
ChildSupportLaws - 29-Mar-17 @ 2:35 PM
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