Child custody arrangements can be extremely difficult to tackle when two people have gone through the ordeal of a divorce or separation.
The individual who will be granted responsibility for the care of a child is determined by child custody law in the UK. In most cases, child custody is granted to the mother, and the father has his contact rights and arrangements set out.
However, a number of organisations are trying to increase the prominence of joint custody in the UK to ensure that fathers are allowed greater contact with their children following a relationship breakdown.
As long as a parent has parental responsibility, he or she should have an opportunity to be involved in the making of important decisions about their child’s life, such as when the child spends time with each parent and other important people in their lives. At Cordell & Cordell our mission is to protect these parental rights, establishing a playing field that is fair to all parties.
In order to prevent confusion, the terminology surrounding custody is outlined below:
The well-known term ‘custody’ is now more commonly referred to as ‘residency.’ This term refers to the location of the children’s main residence following the break-up of that child’s parents.
Factors Determining Outcome of Custody
If you have ever been involved in a child custody case, or you are about to begin one, you most likely have heard the phrase “best interests of the child”. This is almost universally used to determine custody and visitation issues based on the Best Interests of the Child Standard.
Case law defines this standard differently, but in general, there are certain common-sense factors and themes that appear the majority of the time. The list of factors fall into four categories:
1. The historical picture examining each parent’s role in nurturing the child since birth;
2. The prospective picture considering the parents’ situations going into the future;
3. Status concerns referring to the personality or behavioural traits of each party; and
4. The preference of the child.
Shared custody is also known as joint custody, shared residency or shared parenting.
This type of custody allows the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Shared custody also enables both parents to have equal involvement in key decision-making that will impact the child.
The courts will decide on which living arrangements are in the best interest of the child if the parents are unable to agree on a decision.
Shared Custody and the UK
As part of a new Children and Family Bill in 2013, it was announced: “Ministers intend to strengthen the law to ensure children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation where that is safe and in the child’s best interests.”
Shared custody is a highly popular choice throughout Europe and the USA. However, the adoption of joint custody arrangements has been slower to develop in the UK.
A number of organisations are working to increase the prominence of joint custody in this country.
Benefits of Joint Custody
Joint custody boasts a number of advantages for parents and children alike:
- Both parties continue to share parenting responsibility.
- Separated fathers can see their children regularly and are granted more involvement in their lives.
- The children have two homes, which gives them more security and stability.
- Children continue to have a real family life with both parents.
Standard Contact Order
Joint custody differs considerably from a standard contact order. With a standard contact order, one parent is granted the majority of the responsibility for the child.
The other parent, usually the father, is allowed to spend time with the children at the weekend or on selected weekdays.
Your Legal Rights
As the father of your children, you are legally entitled to have involvement in any major decisions which impact upon their lives.
If your wife has custody of the children, she is granted the responsibility for their everyday upbringing and she has the final say in any decision-making.
You have the right to be involved in any key matters such as medical or financial decisions that affect your child and you should seek appropriate advice if you are being denied this right.
Raising Joint Custody in Mediation
It should be stressed that although joint custody is currently not commonly adopted at present in the UK, it is an option that should be brought up within mediation sessions and discussed as a potential custody solution.
Numerous organisations are actively trying to increase the prominence of this type of custody in the UK and see it granted more visibility.
It is also becoming increasingly common to grant children the opportunity to say where they would like to spend their time, as opposed to having to make a definitive decision and choose between their parents.
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