A Brief Overview of Child Custody

Deciding on child custody arrangements can be very tough and distressing for everyone involved. There are many crucial considerations and legal complications.

Divorces and separations can have a big impact on children – especially if they are young and dependent – so it’s crucial that workable arrangements are made for them. In this blog we’ll give a brief overview of child custody and how parents can come to a full agreement.

The three big decisions

The first big decision is where the child will live once the separation is complete. Obviously, the most important person here is the child – not either parent – so the decision should reflect what’s best for the child.

The next decision is the amount of time the child will spend with each parent. If both parents want to have custody, a shared residence agreement can be reached. It’s important to note that shared residence is not necessarily equal custody.

Then you need to decide who will pay child maintenance and how much they will pay. If you can come to an agreement privately, great – but these arrangements are not legally binding, so this is something you must bear in mind. If you can’t come to an informal agreement or would prefer a legally binding arrangement, you can use the Child Maintenance Service – but there are fees involved.

Court orders

If you can’t agree on arrangements generally or can’t agree on a particular issue, you can apply for several types of court orders.

Child arrangements order

This is essentially an amalgamation of a residence order and a contact order – both of which are now redundant as a result. The child arrangements order states where the child will live and how much contact they will have with the non-resident parent. (Divorced parents who already have residence and contact orders do not have to reapply for child arrangements orders.)

Specific issue order and prohibited steps order

If there is a disagreement about a specific aspect of the child’s upbringing – such as where they go to school or what sort of medical treatment they should and shouldn’t receive – you can apply for a specific issue order.

To prevent the other parent from making, on behalf of the child, a decision you might not agree with, you can apply for a prohibited steps order which, as the name suggests, prohibits them from making that particular decision.

Mediation: the preferred decision-making method

Mediation is one of the most popular and most effective methods of dispute resolution in divorce and separation cases.

The mediator is an unbiased lawyer who arranges and supervises meetings between both halves of the relationship. The purpose of these meetings is to come to an agreement that suits everyone affected.

The mediator’s presence helps to ensure that level-headed decisions and fair arrangements are made.

Mediation is less expensive than going to court and, more importantly, it is much less traumatic for children. In most cases, couples must try mediation before court action can even become an option. (Exceptions include domestic abuse cases.)

If court action is the only option, we are prepared to strongly present your case.

Sensitive advice from family law specialists

Family law is one of our main focuses as a firm. We are committed to helping families through tough times, and provide advice on all matters concerning divorces and separations.

We can provide you with honest and accurate advice on child-related matters – such as custody and maintenance.

To find out more, call us on 0161 969 3131, or email family@slaterheelis.co.uk.

We aim to reply to all enquiries within four business hours.