Child custody law in the UK determines who is responsible for a child’s care after their parent’s separation. Custody, otherwise known as residency, involves settling the child’s main residence.

Joint residence is a commonly chosen option which allows the child to spend substantial time with each parent and enables both parents to have an equal say in decisions made for the child. It is not necessarily about equal time but about equal responsibility. In bitter breakups where decisions cannot be made amicably between parents, then the Court will decide on their behalf. When deciding on a child’s custody, the Court will assess both parents and take into consideration factors such as their mental state, their relationship with the child, their income and standard of living. Throughout all stages, the main objective is meeting the child’s best interests.

It could be argued that joint residency arrangements reflect changes in modern-day society, as each parent, regardless of their gender, is required to complete their duties of ‘parent’, rather than of ‘mother’ or ‘father’ specifically.

There are no laws that state whether a child should live specifically with either parent because it is seen as both parent’s responsibility to negotiate residency based on the child’s needs – not on what is most suitable for the parent! If a fair and reasonable decision is not possible, try mediation for guided assistance. Failing that, however, it falls into the Court’s hands.

Whilst most custody issues involve the child’s parents, grandparents sometimes get involved. This is common in situations where a parent is unable to care for their child, or when the grandparent has had a considerable influence and role in the child’s upbringing. Whilst the Court does accept a grandparent’s right to spend time with their grandchild, the general feeling is that the parent is the best possible person to maintain a child’s welfare.

The Court does have the power to stop a parent accessing their child, necessary in circumstances of severe mental ill-health, inability to care for the child or child abuse. However, the Court also has the right to change their decision at any point in time and the parent can re-apply for access once they have sufficient evidence to prove their circumstances have changed enough for them to be able to provide sufficient care.

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