Since 2014 the term child custody is now referred to as a Child Arrangements Order which sets out who a child lives with and with whom a child spends time with. Child Arrangements were previously also known as Residence, Contact, and Child Access.
In the many cases, the parents’ preference is for shared care (joint custody or joint residence). Often parents want a child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. But shared care does not often lead to a child spending the same amount of time with each parent, but allows both parents to participate in the child’s life, enabling the parent who the child does not live to be involved fully in the child’s life, for example, in after school activities with the child, in school activities and medical appointments. If parents are unable to decide amicably on what living arrangement is best for their child, the courts can decide on their behalf.
The first step is to consider Mediation, in fact, before you can make an application to court you need to first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Appointment (MIAMs). The Mediator will assess whether your case is suitable for mediation. Despite Mediation, there are many disputes that end in the family courts. It is important to remember that:
The majority of child arrangement orders (child residency, child custody, access or contact court cases) end amicably with either an agreement as to who the child resides with or shared care as the outcome
The best interests of the child is the overriding consideration of the court and it is helpful to remember this when negotiating or attending mediation. .
Shared Care (Joint Residence/Joint Custody)
There is now a presumption in law that it is in the child’s best interests that both parents are involved in a child’s life, unless there are issues that present a risk to the child. There are many more cases where there is shared care (Joint Residence/Joint Custody) of the children.
It is important to remember that there no laws or 'rights' that state that a child should live specifically with either the mother or father.
During the court proceedings it is so very important to remain child focused. Many parents neglect to consider this fact and negotiate on the basis of what they themselves would prefer (or what suits them). It is necessary, to focus on what is in the best interests of the children, what would suit them and be best for them.
Shared Care Reflect Modern Society
The choice of shared care, reflects the changes in society and takes into consideration work that mothers do outside of the home and a more hands-on approach of child care by fathers. By allowing both parents to have an equal share in life of the child and the physical care of their child, or children allows the responsibilities and obligations in respect of the child to be shared.
Most disputes as to who a child or children live with (Custody Dispute/Residence Disputes) involve the child’s mother and father. However, in some cases a third party – a grandparent, for instance – may seek custody at the time of a parent’s death or where there are care proceedings in respect of the child or children.
Changing or Regaining Custody
Changing the arrangements of where a child lives (changing a child’s residence or custody). The court often prefer to maintain the current position (the status quo) so in order to support a change, substantial evidence will need to be submitted to show why it is in the child’s best interests. Often these cases can involve a parent relocating, or having problems with alcohol or drug abuse. Although, sometimes a parent is not able to meet the child’s or children’s needs for other reasons, but evidence in support will be needed to convince a court.