How to apply for custody of a child in the UK
The old ideas of child custody no longer exist in English law. It’s true however that parents often refer to who will get custody, ask about shared custody and have questions about their rights to have custody of their child. You’ll still also see media headlines referring to people being taken to court over child custody and TV programmes where a character says they are going for ‘full custody’.
Under current English law if you cannot agree as parents where you children will live and when and how they will spend time with each parent you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
Custody rights and shared custody
Both parents are important. Whilst you may think you should have sole custody of your child it is anticipated that a child will have a relationship and spend time with both parents unless they are at risk of harm. If you are worried that your child is at risk of harm you should take action immediately – call us or request a call back.
Most parents manage to reach an agreement between themselves and arrange what they call shared custody.
Parents who cannot agree about how their child will be cared can apply to the court for a child arrangements order, but they should first attempt mediation where an independent third party will listen to both sides and try to help a couple reach an agreement. Often, they will take legal advice alongside the mediation process to provide confidence that the agreement reached is in the child’s best interests.
Parents who are still unable to agree, whether that is with the help of their solicitor or with a mediator, can ask the courts to decide at a court hearing. The resulting Child Arrangements Order will deal with living and contact arrangements with both parents.
Will I be able to get custody for my child?
A court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child and will use the Welfare Checklist before making their decision. This checklist requires them to consider things like the age, physical / emotional needs and wishes and feelings of the child, taking account of their age and maturity. The court will also look at the capabilities of the parents to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child.
There is a presumption of continued parental involvement by both parents, often referred to as shared parenting. It is worth noting that continued parental involvement does not mean a particular division of time. The age of the child will be one important factor to be considered.
Ultimately you will need to consider what is in the best interests of your child. If you and your ex cannot agree a detailed discussion with a family lawyer may help you understand your rights and prepare your case to present to your ex.