How do I resolve a custody battle?
If you and your partner have divorced or separated, who gets custody of the children is likely to be one of the biggest disagreements between you. The term “custody” has not been used by the UK courts for some time but it is still popular amongst the general public.
These days, family courts use the words ‘child arrangements‘, which is not only a more sensitive phrase, it also reflects the facts that these are designed to meet the needs of the children rather than the wishes of the parents alone.
If the parents cannot agree the arrangements between them, ultimately a Court can make that decision for them.
How do I arrange to get custody?
In the eyes of the law, the starting point for all child arrangements between separated couples is that the care of the child should be shared with both parents, unless this would be likely to adversely affect the child’s welfare.
Naturally, there may be reasons why you think that sole custody would be best for the child or children, but the law requires that in the first instance, you try to arrange this amicably with the other parent.
If that isn’t possible, the next step is to seek a child arrangement order from a court. However, before you can make this application, you must first attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
If mediation doesn’t work, either because you can’t agree or because your former partner is violent or abusive, we could then help you to seek a child arrangement order in the family court.
This is a court order that is binding on both parents, and which often sets out the times and days that children must spend time with you and your former partner.
Will a family court give me custody?
When considering arrangements for children, family court judges always refer to the following welfare checklist, which is set out in legislation:
- The wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account their age, level of understanding and maturity. Most courts regard children of nine years and older as having an understanding of their circumstances.
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect that any change of circumstances will have on the child.
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that the court thinks are relevant.
- Any harm that the child may have suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable the parties in the case are of meeting the child’s emotional and physical needs.
- All of the powers that the court has under the Children Act, which could be used within the proceedings.
Whilst the welfare checklist is meant to be used by judges when assessing arrangements for children, if you are a parent who wants a child arrangements order, relying on the welfare checklist is a good place to start for most parents.
If you would like to speak to an experienced family law expert about custody arrangements and child arrangements, you can talk to one of our friendly experts today by calling 020 8771 5000 or contact us online today and we will call you