Following a divorce or separation, deciding on child custody and where your children will live can often be a difficult and problematical issue, as an agreement needs to be in place regarding who will have contact with your children and how often.
This can be a stressful and acrimonious time, but it is always best for parents to try to come to an amicable agreement outside of court. This not only makes things less stressful for you, but it is likely to significantly improve your children’s long-term wellbeing.
The Family Law team at Wells Burcombe will make every effort to help you find an amicable solution. We can help with negotiations between each party through mediation, as well as advising on any agreement you reach through mediation, so you can be confident it is in your and your children’s best interests.
If an agreement cannot be reached then we can prepare an application to the court to aim to obtain an order known as a Child Arrangement Order, that will specify where the children will live, who will have contact with the children and how often. The court will take into consideration what is best for the children, not what is best for either parent.
Our lawyers can also help you challenge a Child Arrangement Order. Whether you are seeking to gain contact with your children, wishing to prevent an abusive ex-partner from having contact or your ex-partner is making it difficult for you to have contact with your children, we can advise you on the best course of action.
We can also help with other contact issues that may arise after a Child Arrangement Order has been finalised such as a parent wishing to move children to another part of the country, or even abroad.
Find out more about our child law services
Our child law fees
We offer flexible funding options for our child law advice, including fixed fees or monthly standing orders to spread your costs.
Fixed fee child law advice
For straightforward matters, we may be able to offer fixed fees. This means we will agree a price in advance to complete a specific matter. This gives you total transparency and certainty of key costs involved.
Deferred fee agreements
Where you are going through a divorce and are waiting for a financial settlement to be agreed, it may be possible to defer some of your costs until a settlement is in place and you have funds available.
Child residence and contact FAQs
Who will a child live with following divorce?
This will entirely depend on the circumstances, but these days the usual arrangement is that separated parents will share the care of their children. This means that the children will spend some time living with each parent, often spending certain days of the week with one parent and the rest with the other.
Working out what pattern of care a child needs will involve looking at what best fits their needs e.g. where they go to school, what weekend activities they take part in etc.
Will I need to go to court to sort out child custody?
In most cases, no. It is also worth noting that the term ‘child custody’ is no longer used as it was considered to have negative connotations.
The majority of parents now agree arrangements for their children through private negotiation or alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation. This can make it much faster and less costly to sort out arrangements for children, as well as keeping things more amicable and protecting children’s wellbeing.
However, in some cases, court proceedings may be required. This is most likely to be the case if parents simply cannot agree on what is best for their children or where there has been a history of domestic abuse and one parent wants sole care of their children.
How is child residence decided?
A court will look at various factors if called upon to decide on child arrangements. Parents making child arrangements voluntarily should consider the same factors when making their decisions to ensure the child’s best interests are protected.
The factors that must be considered include:
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The child’s wishes (more weight will be given to these for older children)
- The likely impact on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex and any background matters that may affect their needs
- Each parent’s capability to meet the child’s needs
Can I get sole custody of my children?
Yes, but it is much less common now that it used to be and, as with ‘child custody’, the term ‘sole custody’ is no longer used.
Unless your former partner is happy for you to have sole care, you would need to go to court to secure sole care of your children. You will need to prove that this is in your children’s best interests (e.g. their other parent is incapable of caring for them or they would not be safe with them). You will need strong evidence to back up such claims.
What happens to children if you weren’t married?
Whether or not you were married does not usually make a difference. The key thing is whether both parents have legal parental responsibility for a child as this determines their right to a say in their child’s upbringing.
Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility (unless a child has been given up for adoption or taken into care). Fathers normally have parental responsibility if they were married to the birth mother or listed on the birth certificate.
A same-sex spouse of the birth mother will normally have parental responsibility if they were married to the birth mother when the child was conceived.
A parent who does not have legal parental responsibility can be granted this, either through securing the agreement of everyone else with parental responsibility or by applying to a court for a Parental Responsibility Order.