As an introduction to this most sensitive of topics, we think it is worth highlighting a crucial truth that is unfortunately forgotten all too often when a relationship breaks down:
Child custody isn’t the right of every parent; it is the right of every child to live with the parent most suited to meet his or her needs. It is also the child’s right, wherever possible, to have contact with their other parent on a frequent basis.
Child custody is such an emotive issue that it is difficult to summarise within a few words what it entails. Most couples assume that when they split up child custody and access issues are automatically decided by the courts. This is not so. Actually, child custody is only determined by the court if the parents can’t come to an agreement on the arrangements for their children. This idea was introduced by the Children Act 1989 (as amended by the Children and Adoption Act 2002) and is known as the ‘No Order Principle’.
The legislation also introduced the terms ‘residence’, ‘contact’ and ‘parental responsibility’. Many people still generally refer to all these issues as child ‘custody’ problems and for ease of reference we have provided a brief definition of the new phrases:
- Residence – this means the full time ‘custody’ of the child. It indicates who the child will live with the majority of the time.
- Contact – this means the ‘access’ to the child. It refers to any contact the child has with the non-residence parent (or other party) and can range from a brief visit, or telephone call, through to overnight staying contact.
- Parental Responsibility – this is a recognition of your status as a parent. It means that you share in the responsibility for the child and have an input into important decisions such as the child’s education or healthcare.
Although the court system does its best to cope with the number of private law disputes concerning child custody, it is unfortunately not a very quick process. At Divorcesolicitor.com we aim to provide advice and assistance to try to avoid contested child custody disputes whenever possible. Caring, sympathetic and expert advice is just a phone call away – and, as always, the first half-hour’s free of charge.