Understanding Child Residence and Contact Following Separation
Divorce and separation can be, particularly difficult if children are involved. We understand that establishing a new routine quickly can prove a great help, which is why it is so important to agree on arrangements for your children swiftly during the divorce process.
We have a wealth of practical experience and comprehensive legal knowledge when it comes to making arrangements about where your child will live following a divorce or separation. We will take the time to meet with you and discuss your options in detail, focusing upon what is in the child’s best interests and providing clear and realistic responses to your questions and concerns.
Child custody and access in Family Law
When deciding who will look after children following divorce or separation, it is always best if you and the other parent are able to negotiate amicably, however, we understand that parents often disagree about who will have custody and you may need to apply for a Child Arrangement Order.
In legal language, the term 'child residence' has replaced the use of 'custody' when discussing where a child will live. And 'contact' is now used in place of 'access' to describe how and when the non-resident parent will spend time with the child.
The adult with whom the child resides is known as the resident parent or primary carer. If the child spends roughly equal amounts of time with both parents, perhaps one week with their mother and the following week with father, they are said to have shared residence.
How is child residence decided?
Some people believe the mother automatically gains child residence when a couple splits up, but this is not correct. If parents cannot agree who is to be the primary carer, a court will need to decide based on the unique circumstances of the family and always with the welfare of the children at the forefront of their consideration.
When the court is asked to make a decision on where a child will live they will do this through a Child Arrangement Order (previously known as Child Contact and Residence Order). This order will also deal with the issue of non-resident parental contact. The court will usually take the approach that it is most beneficial for children to have both parents involved in their lives.
As a specialist child custody lawyer in London, Goodsells Family Law can assist you in making an application for child residence (custody) through a Child Arrangements Order.
The role of parental responsibility
If you are an unmarried father and you wish to become the primary carer of your child, you should make sure you have parental responsibility in place, although it is important to note that having parental responsibility does not confer an automatic right to child residence.
Similarly, if you are in a same-sex relationship and you wish to seek child residence, it is important that you make sure you have parental responsibility.
See our page on Parental Rights and Responsibilities for more information.
Statement of Arrangements
Making arrangements for your children after a divorce or separation can be very difficult. Resolution of the issues should always focus upon what is in the children’s best interests. If you agree about arrangements and don't wish to go through the court, you and your former partner can draft a Statement of Arrangements which sets out where the children will live and all the contact arrangements you wish to include.
While a Statement of Arrangements is not legally binding (if the other parent fails to keep to what you have agreed, you will be unable to enforce it), having this in place can be useful if you later decide to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order, as it can be seen by the court as evidence of intention.
How are other matters relating to children handled?
Bringing up children involves so much more than merely deciding where they will live and when contact with the non-resident parent will happen. If you cannot agree on certain issues, such as the type of education your child will receive or changing the child's name, you may need to apply for a Specific Issue Order.
A Prohibited Steps Order can also be useful if you wish to prevent the other parent from doing certain things; for instance, taking the child out of the country.
You can find out more on our Child Arrangements Orders page. We have also written a number of blog articles on this subject:
- Changing a Child's Name Following Divorce
- Taking your Child on Holiday Abroad After Divorce
- Tips for Creating a Parenting Plan
Contact Our Child Custody Solicitor in Clapham, London
We are here to help you with all your child law issues and we are sensitive to the importance of your situation.
To discuss any matters relating to children, including child custody, child residence, and access/contact issues, call Goodsells Family Law on 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.