The Voice of the Child has become a world wide phenomenon in which the wishes and feelings of children are sought in the family courts, in matters concerning the care of a child and in areas of hea…
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 – I would personally not recommend this
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.
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.
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.