Where does your child live following a divorce?

Where does your child live following a divorce?

When parents divorce, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration. Although child custody is a commonly used term it is no longer used by legal practitioners and the courts, child custody is now legally referred to Child Arrangements. Determining what kind of child arrangements are in a child’s best interests is among the most crucial factor for couples considering getting a divorce.

There is no automatic ruling which determines where and with whom a child or children should reside. The decision is always based on individual circumstances what the court deems is in the best interests of the children. Factors that may be taken into consideration include:

● Who has had the primary responsibility for the child involved to date?
● Which parent can spend the most time with the child?
● The child’s emotional wellbeing
● Each parent’s ability to care for the child

Another primary focus of the family courts is making sure the child/ren have a good relationship with both parents. A Child Arrangements Order, which will consider all factors to determine the best solution for the child/ren involved, may be made by the court if the parents are unable to agree on issues such as where the child lives and how much time the child will spend with each parent.

What are your child arrangements rights?

Where a parent has parental responsibility, they have a right to be involved in any decision that affects their child’s lives. This includes where they live and spend their time. Both parents are important, and where possible, a court will always work towards an agreement where the child gets to see both parents unless there is a risk they will be harmed. If your child does not live with you, you have the right to know where they live and which school they attend along with other important information relating to your child.

Where both parents have parental responsibility, neither the mother nor the father have the exclusive right to have the child live with them.

How to improve your chances of the court ordering for your child to live with you

Whilst any child arrangements decisions should ideally be jointly made by both parents, sometimes that just isn’t possible and in these cases a judge will need to make the decision. Below are some suggestions for a parent that a court would likely consider to be in the best interests of the child:

● Be honest about how much time you have to commit to caring for your child. If you work full time or have other carer responsibilities, consider if you really can take over the child’s primary care and if that’s in their best interests.
● Be involved in your child’s life. If your child isn’t currently living with you, make an effort to video call them and see them frequently. In addition, attend social and educational events such as birthday celebrations, festivities, and parent evenings. These are all signs of a meaningful relationship with your child.
● Be able to meet their physical needs, such as having enough space in a home and keeping that home tidy and free from hazards.
● Treat the other parent with respect. If you are rude or disrespectful, especially in front of your child, this will reflect poorly.
● Try and consider the best level of contact that the other parent should have. This needs to be at a level which would allow the child to maintain a good relationship and benefit from still having both parents in their lives.
● Respect your child’s feelings, show that you understand their wishes.
● Have a plan, so if asked by the courts, you can advise where your child will live, what school they will attend etc.

How much does it cost to go to court for child arrangements?

This is a common question. However, we like to make sure we have explored every other available option before taking your case to court. We will never advise you to go court if we feel it isn’t necessary to reach a resolution.

If it is decided that the best option is to go to court, you will need to apply for a child arrangements order from the court. This costs £232. In addition, there will be other associated legal fees, and these will vary depending on your circumstances and the complexity of the case.

You can book a free, confidential consultation with National Legal Service’s experienced family solicitors to discuss your circumstances and find out how we can help if you are divorcing and require expert legal support to reach an agreement with your former partner.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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