Child custody: what to consider
We recommend collaborative or mediation-first approaches to child custody in order to reduce stress, anxiety and of course, costs.
Amongst other things, you and your ex partner will want to decide:
- Where the children should stay and live
- How often the child should see each parent
- Where the child goes to school
- The impact of any decisions on the child
In order to determine this, you should consider which parent has the most time available to look after the child and on which days, as well as which arrangements will have the least impact on the child's existing routine for, example going to and from school.
Whether your divorce is going to be collaborative or using mediation services, our child custody solicitors can help you to reach an agreement about the future of your child.
What is the child custody process?
The child arrangements order is granted by the court and this determines where the child lives and spends time. The court will commonly try to ensure that both parents are involved in the future up-bringing of the children.
You don’t need to go to court in order to decide on the child-arrangements and this should be a last resort, e.g. you can’t reach an agreement by other means.
Making it legally binding
A family law solicitor can help you to draft a consent order. It will confirm details of your arrangements, including things such as where your children will live how much time will spend with each parent as well as where they go to school.
Which parent should be responsible?
Both parents are responsible for their children if they are married, however in most cases if the couple is unmarried it is only the mother who has automatic rights. It is possible however for unmarried fathers to get parental responsibility where they are named on the child's birth certificate. In most cases, whether they are married or unmarried, both parents will be required to provide financial support for their children.
Do you need to go to court?
You will only need to go to court to settle child custody issues if you are unable to agree on the arrangements for your child. We recommend mediation as the first port of call as this can be less stressful for all parties and also more cost-effective.
What is Family Mediation?
Taking your child custody issues to court should be a last Resort. If you do decide that court is the best option, you will need to show that you have attempted mediation to resolve any disagreements with your ex partner
The mediator should provide a calm environment where you can reach agreements and be encouraged to put your children's best interests first.
A mediator can create a document that could be used by your solicitor to create a consent order that would make the agreement legally binding.
Collaborative family law
Another alternative to court is collaborative family law, whereby you and your ex-partner have a solicitor or legal representative that helps you to reach an agreement. If this process is agreed, then a consent order can once again be drawn up.
This is when an arbitrator helps you to come to an agreement as opposed to a judge in court. It means that you don't necessarily need to go to court, but the decision taken by the arbitrator is legally binding.
Creating a Parenting Plan
If you are able to talk to your partner and come to an agreement about your children, you could create a parenting plan. This is a document to help you clarify your arrangements and gives you a point of reference in future. Bear in mind that this can be changed at any time and is not necessarily legally binding should any issues or disputes occur in the future.
Applying to a court
Going to court to resolve a child's arrangements dispute should be your last option, having tried other approaches. Most commonly you'll need to demonstrate that you have tried mediation before taking the step of going to court. There are a number of orders that you could apply for from the courts including a child arrangement order or orders relating to specific issues such as education. Once you've applied to the courts, a judge will encourage you to reach an agreement. If you can’t agree, the judge will determine what happens next and in most cases will take the child's feelings and wishes into account, particularly in cases where there are special needs. It is worth bearing in mind that court hearings can be long, costly processes and it's important to make sure you have exhausted other options first.
If you have a question about child custody speak to our family expert now.
More on Laws for Children
The Laws For Children
Practical legal solutions that put your children first.
Child Arrangement Orders
Make arrangements for your children including where they go to school and when they see each parent or guardian.
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