Child Custody Arrangements – What you need to know

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A relationship breaking down represents many challenges for the parties involved, not least the issue of child custody arrangements. If you find it difficult to reach a decision on your children’s living arrangements, our team of expert child custody arrangement solicitors are ready to offer the guidance and legal support necessary, please get in touch with us today.

What is a child custody arrangement?

A child custody arrangement, also commonly referred to as a parenting plan or child custody agreement, is a legal document that outlines how the responsibilities and parenting time for a child will be divided between separated or divorced parents. This arrangement is designed to ensure the well-being and best interests of the child are prioritised.

When determining child custody arrangements, the court takes various factors into account. These factors include the child’s age, background, and any characteristics the court considers relevant. The court also considers any harm or risk of harm the child may be exposed to, as well as the capability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.

In addition, the court considers the child’s views, taking into account their age and maturity. While younger children may have limited input, older and more mature children may express their preferences, which the court will consider alongside other factors.

Types of Child Custody Arrangements

Child custody arrangements come in various forms to accommodate the unique needs and circumstances of families. The type of arrangement depends on factors such as the parents’ relationship, the child’s age and preferences, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment. Some common types of child custody arrangements include:

Sole Custody:

  • In a sole custody arrangement, one parent is granted both legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the custodial parent has sole parental responsibility, the authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, and the child primarily resides where that parents lives. The non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights.

Joint Custody:

  • Joint custody involves both parents sharing legal custody, where they collaborate on major decisions about the child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody may be joint (shared), meaning the child spends significant time with both parents. Joint custody requires effective communication and cooperation between parents.

Split Custody:

  • Split custody is a less common arrangement and usually occurs when there are multiple children involved. In this scenario, each parent is granted sole custody of at least one child. While this approach may address relationships and preferences, it can pose challenges in terms of maintaining sibling relationships.

When parents are unable to reach an agreement on custody, the court may intervene and make a determination based on the best interests of the child. Mediation is often encouraged before resorting to court, allowing parents to work collaboratively to create a plan that prioritises the well-being of the child.

Child Custody Mediation

Before heading to court, parents are encouraged to engage in mediation to resolve custody disputes amicably. Mediation involves a neutral third party family mediator helping parents reach an agreement that considers the best interests of the child. This process can be less adversarial and stressful than a court battle, avoids court fees and fosters a cooperative approach to parenting post-divorce. Any agreement or parenting plan made in family mediation can be made legally binding through a consent order.

Child Arrangement Orders

A Child Arrangement Order (CAO) is a legal document issued by a family court that determines the arrangements for the upbringing of a child. It is a court order that outlines who the child will live with (residence) and who the child will spend time with (contact or visitation). Child Arrangement Orders were introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014, replacing the previous terminology of residence and contact orders.

You must get the consent of the court for a child arrangement order, and it must be a last resort only if family mediation did not work. There are some exceptions to the requirement of family mediation, such as domestic abuse in the family home, in which case you can progress straight to family court to obtain a CAO.

How can Expert Family Law help?

When child custody arrangement disputes arise between parents, it can be helpful to have someone outside of the relationship to help you navigate through the conflict and provide you with the best advice on moving forward, keeping the needs of your children at the forefront.

We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The family lawyers our panel can provide you with the best legal advice and assistance on resolving child arrangement disputes and obtaining Orders from the Court if the dispute cannot be resolved between the parents or through the process of mediation.

As well as assisting with child arrangements, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and help on the process child maintenance payments, divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).

We ensure that the family law solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist with your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a child arrangement solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

 

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