Personal Law

Child custody after divorce: How it works

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 10, 2020

Divorce is stressful enough without the additional concern about child custody. Although child custody is no longer a legal term – child arrangements is now used – it remains one of the top concerns for divorcing couples.

For some separating parents, who gets custody will be an issue of contention. For others, it will be a foregone conclusion.

Knowing your children will be taken care of after your divorce can be hugely reassuring.

Your children’s best interests

Divorce affects everyone in a family. Your children might end up being the most upset by the separation. Life as they knew it has been disrupted, with their parents no longer living together. They may have to move and spending time with their parents on an individual basis might be difficult for them.

It’s for this reason that you might want to try go about it in the most amicable way possible. Agreeing on the terms of your divorce will make the entire process easier for everyone, but it will be particularly helpful for your children.

If you can avoid them seeing you arguing or fighting with their other parent, you’ll make it easier for them to maintain close relationships with both of you. Your children’s happiness is likely going to be at the very top of your priorities when you’re getting divorced.

Working out your child custody arrangements with your children’s best interests in mind will give them the best foundation for moving forward.

When you’re in agreement

In the UK, you don’t have to go to court to decide on the custody of your children if you and your ex-partner can agree on where the children will live, as well as how much time they’ll spend with each parent and how they will be financially supported.

If this is the case, you won’t have to fill out any official paperwork. You can write down what you’ve agreed in a Parenting Plan, if you want it recorded. However, this plan won’t be legally binding. If you want this to be made legally binding, you can take on the services of a child custody lawyer, who will draft a consent order for you.

This is a legal document confirming your agreement, including details on how you’ll take care of your children. This can include where they live, when they spend time with each parent and when and what other types of contact will take place (such as phone calls).

The order will have to be approved by the court. But if the judge doesn’t think the order is in your children’s best interests, they either change it or issue a new court order setting out what’s best for them.

Agreeing on child custody arrangements is the most positive way of divorcing. It allows everyone involved to focus on maintaining their relationships with each other, rather than spending time in court.

When you don’t agree

If you can’t come to an agreement on your children’s custody arrangements, you should explore mediation as a way of coming to an agreement. It can help you agree on the terms of your childcare arrangements when you divorce.

Mediation isn’t right for everyone and your mediator can decide if this is true for you. You may require the help of a family law solicitor or you may need to contact Citizens Advice or social services for help.

If you still can’t agree on child custody, you may need to let the court decide what your arrangements will be. You’ll need to apply for a court order before this. In most cases, you’ll need to prove that you’ve attended a meeting about mediation before you can take your case to court.

Judges will consider what’s best for the children when making their decision. They’ll think about the child’s wishes, their needs and the effect any changes will have on them. Despite what many think, mothers will not automatically be awarded custody by the courts. Judges will carefully consider what the most appropriate arrangements for the child is, as well as assess each parent individually, and make their decision accordingly.

Before going to court, you might want to take advice from a child custody lawyer to ensure you are doing the right thing for your family. They’ll be able to help you review all of your options and come to a decision on what the best course of action for your children is.

If you’d like to find out how First4Lawyers could help you do the right thing for your children during your divorce, just give us a call, request a call back or make an enquiry online. We work with experienced divorce lawyers who can help you decide on everything from custody to child maintenance.

Acting with your children’s best interests in mind doesn’t have to be difficult.

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