How does child custody work in the UK?

Child custody is known as “child arrangements” in the UK. “Custody” refers to the living arrangements of a child after a divorce.

When a married couple gets a divorce or separation, both have an equal say in how the children should be brought up and how much time each parent should spend with them. In lots of cases, this can be decided between the parents.

If child arrangements cannot be decided amicably, it may be necessary to go to court once all other advice and support have been exhausted. 

To have an enforceable decision on child “custody” a child arrangements order must be applied for. This replaced residence orders and custody orders. Child arrangements orders outline where the child will live, when the child spends time with each parent, and what types of contact can take place such as telephone calls and meetings.

Anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a child arrangements order to sort out the custody of the child.

Do mothers have more custody rights than fathers?

Not necessarily, the court will look at who is the “primary caregiver” in the relationship. This means, which parent looks after the child on a daily basis. In lots of families, there is one particular parent that takes the child to school, and provides the child with food, and cares for the child day-to-day. However, in other families, the roles are split equally between the parents. 

Depending on the particular family dynamic, the mother may be considered the primary caregiver and therefore be granted “custody” so that the child lives with her for the majority of the time. In other cases, the father may be the primary caregiver.

The court will consider the bests interests of the child when deciding whether they are best placed with the mother or the father when making child arrangements.

Do fathers ever win custody of the child?

A father can gain custody of the child if the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child. There are many factors at play when considering custody as it can have a massive impact on the child’s life and upbringing.

If the child is old enough to be able to express how they feel and where they want to live, then the court will listen.  

The court will look at whether the father can meet the needs of the child and what responsibility the father has had during the child’s life so far, along with their relationship. It will also consider the relationship between the mother and the child and whether any changes in living arrangements or routine would impact the child.

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