How to get child custody

Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.

Sean is a fact-checker and researcher with experience in sociology and field research.

Even though the courts do not discriminate against dads, very few fathers have full custody of their children. According to census records, 17.5% of custodial parents are fathers.

Though there can be several reasons why, it can be hard not to be discouraged by this if you're a father seeking full custody. While the process can be challenging, it is not impossible.

Most judges try to ensure that the decisions they make are in the best interest of the children. In the absence of concerns such as abuse or substance use issues, when awarding full custody to one parent is best, this often means maintaining contact and relationships with both parents.

Whether you are a father going for full custody or joint custody, you should do everything you can to prepare for the child custody negotiation ahead of you. By making the best case for custody, you can reach the result you’re hoping for.

Be Realistic and Honest

It's essential that you are honest with yourself about what you can manage on your own practically, financially, and otherwise.

While full custody may be want your heart wants, it may simply not be realistic.

The court will look to ensure that you have a clear sense of the new life you are petitioning to take on. Think of all of the responsibilities that you juggle on a daily basis and how you will manage them while being a single parent.

Determine what you truly can and cannot do, and be clear about that with others. This will improve the likelihood that your request will be taken seriously.

Make a Plan

A judge will expect you to be prepared for custody if it is awarded. Compile intelligent responses to potential questions that are asked by a judge.

For example, a judge may ask questions about living accommodations, the child's education (including after-school activities), and financial preparedness.

Be ready to answer each of them thoroughly and honestly.

Talk to Other Parents

Speak to others who have been through the child custody process. They can offer insight and let you know what to expect.

But remember that everyone's experience is unique. Try your best to separate the emotional aspects of their stories from the facts. It's easy for someone else's fear or anxiety to ratchet up your own, which can negatively (and unnecessarily) cloud your judgement.

Be Involved in Your Child's Life

In addition to making sure you can take care of a child's basic and practical needs, the court will look for evidence of a meaningful relationship.

While you may feel a strong connection with your child, the judge is looking for objective expressions of that as well.

  • Do staff members at your child's school know you? Have you met with them about academic progress?
  • Do you sit and do homework with your child or coach their sports team?
  • Do you attend your children’s social, educational, religious, and other important events? (E.g., school plays, birthday parties, and awards ceremonies)
  • Do you know who your child's best friends are? What your child wants to be when they grow up?

Pay Child Support

Whether you are petitioning the court for full or joint custody, continue to make regular child support payments. You will want to make sure you have a good track record when you enter the process.

If you have an informal arrangement with your child’s other parent, maintain good records such as cancelled checks, receipts, and any other documentation that shows you have been consistently supporting your kids financially.

If you are struggling to make payments, you can request a modification. But, you shouldn’t attempt to get full custody just to eliminate paying child support.

You also may want to consider whether or not you will request child support from the other parent if you are awarded full custody.

Keep Track of Visitations

Having an accurate record of your visitation schedule is an important part of trying to win child custody. Visitation records not only show how often you see your children under the current arrangements, but they also demonstrate your reliability and commitment to your kids.

If you and your ex-partner currently have a parenting plan that was submitted to the court when child custody was originally discussed, then be sure you are honoring the visitation arrangements in that plan. And, if your ex-partner is not honoring those arrangements, or if they are keeping you from your kids, document that too.

One way to keep track of your visitations is to use a calendar or a child custody app. Look for apps that include a time and date stamp as these are considered reliable pieces of evidence in court and lend credibility to your argument.

Create a Space for Your Child

A court will ask about adequate living accommodations during all hearings about child custody.

Even if you live in a small space, you should make a special place in your home for your child. The judge will want to ensure:

  • You are at your residence on a consistent basis.
  • You have a bed for your child to sleep in whenever they are with you (i.e., not a couch or an air mattress).
  • Your home is safe and secure.

Be sure you have addressed all of these issues to the best of your ability before appearing in court.

Treat Co-Parents Respectfully

The way you treat your child’s other parent may be a factor in determining child custody.

Being adversarial or rude to the other parent cannot only make shared decision making more difficult, but it can end up fracturing parent/child relationships.

Because of this, judges are more likely to side with the parent who is not engaging in this behavior.

Even if your former partner is extremely challenging to co-parent with, do everything you can to be respectful. This includes speaking appropriately about them to your children.

Respect Your Child's Wishes

Custody cases, and the transition that starts after them, are difficult for everyone—especially kids.

While parents often spend a lot of time thinking about what they want or what they think is best for their children, kids' opinions are too often left out of the calculus.

The judge will want to know what the kids want and will likely ask them directly at some point in the process. By asking your child what they think and desire, you can better inform your decision making.

While you may not be able to accommodate their every wish, it's important that your kids have a say in where they live and with whom.

Allow them to share their thoughts and opinions without trying to convince them or sway them one way or another—and really listen.

Then, use this information to draft a custody request that clearly indicates you listened to them and care about their thoughts and feelings.

A Word From Verywell

Keep in mind, too, that most judges are not inclined to alter existing custody arrangements if things appear to be working well.

If you are going to pursue full custody, you need to be able to present some compelling evidence as to why this new arrangement is in the best interest of your children.

The old ideas of child custody no longer exist in English law. It’s true however that parents often refer to who will get custody, ask about shared custody and have questions about their rights to have custody of their child. You’ll still also see media headlines referring to people being taken to court over child custody and TV programmes where a character says they are going for ‘full custody’.

Under current English law if you cannot agree as parents where you children will live and when and how they will spend time with each parent you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order.

Custody rights and shared custody

Both parents are important. Whilst you may think you should have sole custody of your child it is anticipated that a child will have a relationship and spend time with both parents unless they are at risk of harm. If you are worried that your child is at risk of harm you should take action immediately – call us or request a call back.

Most parents manage to reach an agreement between themselves and arrange what they call shared custody.

Parents who cannot agree about how their child will be cared can apply to the court for a child arrangements order, but they should first attempt mediation where an independent third party will listen to both sides and try to help a couple reach an agreement. Often, they will take legal advice alongside the mediation process to provide confidence that the agreement reached is in the child’s best interests.

Parents who are still unable to agree, whether that is with the help of their solicitor or with a mediator, can ask the courts to decide at a court hearing. The resulting Child Arrangements Order will deal with living and contact arrangements with both parents.

Will I be able to get custody for my child?

A court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child and will use the Welfare Checklist before making their decision. This checklist requires them to consider things like the age, physical / emotional needs and wishes and feelings of the child, taking account of their age and maturity. The court will also look at the capabilities of the parents to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child.

There is a presumption of continued parental involvement by both parents, often referred to as shared parenting. It is worth noting that continued parental involvement does not mean a particular division of time. The age of the child will be one important factor to be considered.

Ultimately you will need to consider what is in the best interests of your child. If you and your ex cannot agree a detailed discussion with a family lawyer may help you understand your rights and prepare your case to present to your ex.

Call Woolley & Co, family lawyers on 0800 321 3832 to arrange a telephone appointment with one of our family law experts, or complete our online form.

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How to get child custody

How to get child custody

How to get child custody

How to get child custody

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There are many different scenarios in which a parent or close relative will want to get custody of their child. Child custody hearings can be emotionally difficult because the stakes are so high for everyone involved. Child custody decisions are generally supposed to be made in accordance with the child’s best interests, which may or may not correlate with one or both parent’s wishes.

So, while parents may work out a custody arrangement on their own, any agreements must still be approved by the court. If you are involved in a custody dispute, you should get familiar with the process and try to understand just how these decisions are made. Contact a child custody attorney in your area for help dealing with a custody dispute.

Negotiating Child Custody Arrangements Informally

In the best-case scenario, parents will work together through informal negotiations — with or without the assistance of attorneys — to come up with a custody arrangement and parenting plan. Once the parties have arrived at an agreement, it should be put into writing (referred to as either a "settlement agreement" or "custody agreement," depending on your state).

If the parents are able to agree on the terms and the court decides the terms are in the child’s best interest, then the court will generally approve the plan without further hearings.

Using Alternative Dispute Resolution for Child Custody Decisions

Another way to avoid a courtroom showdown when confronted with a child custody dispute is to use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method, which includes:

  • Mediation
  • Collaborative family law
  • Arbitration

The advantage of using ADR over a traditional courtroom setting is that it tends to be much less adversarial, with the goal of compromise rather than simply determining "winners" and "losers." In order for ADR to truly work, the parents must be willing to work together in order to reach a solution that’s best for the child.

Mediation and collaborative family law are the most commonly used forms of ADR for child custody cases. In mediation, the parties to a given dispute discuss the situation, propose solutions, and then devise a plan on their own through the help of a neutral third-party mediator (although attorneys may be present).

Collaborative family law is similar to mediation, with a few important differences. While the goal is to create a "win-win" situation for the parties, as in mediation, neither party may go to court. If court action is threatened, then the attorneys are automatically disqualified and the process is over.

What Is a Parenting Agreement?

When the parties in a child custody dispute have hashed out their differences, compromised, and agreed to a set of rules for custody and visitation, they draft a parenting agreement. This often involves help and input from attorneys, even if it is agreed to outside of the courtroom. The parenting agreement may also be referred to as a "custody agreement" or "settlement agreement."

Once this is written and signed by the parties, it can then be ordered by the court after a hearing. Parenting agreements typically include the following:

  • Which parent has physical custody
  • Which parent has legal custody
  • How future changes to the agreement will be handled

Many states have statutes or court rules that require other particular provisions to be included in the agreement. This is another reason the assistance of an attorney is helpful for drafting a strong parenting agreement.

The Child Custody Hearing

Most child custody hearings are relatively informal. The judge will ask each party several questions to determine whether or not they understand the terms of the parenting agreement and whether any disputes remain. If the parties have come up with a valid parenting agreement, it will be finalized into a court order. If the parties have not reached an agreement, or are unwilling to work together, the judge will decide who gets custody.

Legal Advice for Parenting Agreements

It is important to have a parenting agreement to provide clear guidance for child custody. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate an agreement and represent you in any custody disputes. Get help today and find an experienced family law attorney near you.

Learn About How to Get Custody

Getting Custody FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about which factors a court will consider when awarding custody of a child; suggestions for parents who are seeking custody; and related questions.

Child Custody Mediation FAQ

Answers to frequently asked child custody mediation questions, such as the costs and benefits of the mediation process; options for mediation between two adversarial parents; and more.

Parenting Agreements

Overview of parenting agreements, drafted by parents through out-of-court negotiations, that stipulate where a child will live primarily; where the child will spend certain holidays; and how disputes are settled.

How Custody Decisions are Made

Basics of how courts decide how divorced or unmarried parents get custody of their child, typically based on a determination of the child’s best interests.

Working Together to Resolve Custody

Various options for determining the custody of a child outside of the court room, such as settling through informal negotiations; collaboration; mediation; and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Custody Considerations: Step-By-Step

A step-by-step guide to help parents through the child custody process, with considerations such as determining the type of custody sought; whether the court will make the final decision; and more.

You can apply online or using a paper form for any of the following:

  • child arrangements order
  • prohibited steps order
  • specific issue order
  • consent order

There’s a different process in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It costs £232 to apply for a court order. You may be able to get help paying court fees if you’re on benefits or a low income.

Before you apply

You must usually attend a meeting about mediation before you apply. This is called a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).

You do not need to attend a MIAM either:

  • in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example)
  • if you’re applying for a consent order

Apply online

Once you’ve started your application, you can save your form and complete it later. You’ll have 28 days to complete the form after you’ve saved it.

Apply using a paper form

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), your application will be processed faster if you apply online.

Follow these steps to apply for a court order using a paper form.

Fill in the C100 court form. You must show you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first – except in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example) or when applying for a consent order.

Send your original form and 3 copies of it to the nearest court that deals with cases involving children.

Litigating custody of a child in California consists of eight main steps. Some may be skipped or rearranged and others added, depending on your circumstances and county.

At any point, parents can agree on a plan and have a judge sign it. Then the custody process jumps to Step 8.

Private mediation, collaborative law and other alternative methods for deciding custody follow their own processes.

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and custody schedules.

Step 1: Preparation

Do your research and consider your options. Will you request sole or joint physical custody? What about legal custody? What does your ideal parenting schedule look like? Then, meet with a lawyer to come up with a legal strategy. Attorney representation is strongly recommended, but if you’re not able to hire someone, you should at least do a free or low-cost consultation to hear the thoughts of a professional.

Step 2: Filing

Before you can request custody, you must open a family law case with your county’s superior court; this can be a divorce, a request for a domestic violence restraining order, a paternity case or a petition for custody. Then you file a request for a custody order, which can be done by either parent. Once papers are filed with the court clerk and the other parent has been served with a copy, he or she can file a response.

Possible: Emergency custody hearing

If a child is at risk of being harmed or removed from the state within the next few days, a parent can request an expedited hearing to determine if emergency temporary orders are necessary (also called “ex parte orders”). If a judge issues emergency orders, they stay in effect until the next hearing, when they can be terminated, replaced bymtemporary orders, or extended.

Step 3: Orientation

Many counties in California require parents to complete a short orientation at the start of their custody case. Often times, it can be done online, such as in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Clara and Napa counties. If your county doesn’t require orientation, California Courts’ video introduction to child custody mediation can serve as a helpful way to prepare for your next step.

Step 4: Court-ordered mediation

Parents are required by law to attend mediation before having a judge decide their custody or visitation arrangement. They will meet for free with a court-employed mediator for up to several hours, and attorneys will not be present.

The goal of mediation is to develop a detailed parenting plan the parents both support, which can be signed by a judge to become a final order. If mandatory mediation does not result in 100% agreement, some counties’ mediators give recommendations to the court. In other counties, mediators simply report that an agreement was not reached.

Remember that anytime parents are able to agree on a plan ― through mediation, informal negotiation or otherwise ― a judge can sign it, and the custody process jumps to Step 8.

Step 5: Hearing

If mediation did not result in a parenting agreement, it will be followed by a hearing. This hearing is generally the first time the parties meet with a judge, though some counties require an initial hearing before court-ordered mediation.

After reviewing the facts of your case, the judge will do one or more of the following:

  • Order a child custody evaluation, if he/she believes a mental health professional should weigh in
  • Appoint child’s counsel, if the case requires the children involved to have their own attorneys
  • Give temporary custody orders, if the parties are unable to find a parenting arrangement that works for the duration of the custody proceeding
  • Order another hearing or a trial

Hearings are opportunities for you to briefly present your argument and evidence to the judge so he or she can determine next steps. The parents and their attorneys typically all speak.

You may have as few as one hearing or as many as 10 hearings throughout your case, depending on your family’s circumstances.

Step 6: Conferences

Conferences are essentially meetings with the judge. Different counties use different types of conferences. In many cases, only attorneys enter the chambers, and they report back to their clients on what was discussed.

A pre-trial conference or trial setting conference makes sure both parties are ready for trial, estimates how long the trial is likely to take, sets ground rules and more.

In a settlement conference, the parties again come together to try to find common ground and avoid a trial. This time, the judge guides the parties toward a solution. Some counties do not require or offer this step, while others use multiple settlement conferences.

Step 7: Trial

If parents are unable to settle, they will ultimately end up in trial.

A trial is like an extended, more formal version of a hearing. Both parties have the opportunity to explore all of their evidence and question witnesses in front of the judge so he or she can issue a ruling.

A trial can last hours, days, weeks or, in extremely complicated cases, months. Often there’s a significant waiting period between the last hearing and the trial, since court calendars fill up and attorneys need time to gather evidence.

At the end of the trial, the judge will announce his or her decision. Once signed, it is known as a final custody order.

Step 8: Final custody orders

To bring the custody process to a close, a judge will sign a final custody order. It lays out, in the form of a parenting plan, the legal terms all parties must abide by until the child involved turns 18 or is emancipated. The details are decided either by a judge after a trial or by the parties themselves, with the judge signing off to approve.

If a parent has reason to contest a court’s decision, they can appeal to a higher court and begin the legal process again. They can also file a motion to change or cancel the court order.

As children grow older and their lifestyles change, orders often need to be modified several times. Parents can develop a new parenting plan together or one can request that the court modify the existing plan.

If the other parent doesn’t follow a court order, you should keep detailed notes of the violations. For serious or repeat violations, you can contact police or file for contempt with the court.

Throughout your case

During the custody process, you may need to create a parenting plan, draft custody schedules, track your time with your child, keep a log about interactions with the other parent, and more.

The Custody X Change app enables you to do all of this in one place.

With a parenting plan template, custody calendars, a digital journal and beyond, Custody X Change makes sure you’re prepared for whatever arises in your journey to child custody.

Throughout your case, take advantage of our technology to stay on top of all the moving parts.

Custody X Change is software that creates customizable parenting plans and custody schedules.

Married Parents. Both parents have equal rights to custody of a child born during a marriage. What if the mother and father are separated and one wants sole custody? That parent must go to court and get legal custody. The court awards custody to the parent it decides can best raise the child.

Unmarried Parents. The mother of a child born out of wedlock has all rights to custody of the child. Signing the birth certificate does not give the biological father the right to take the child. To get custody or any rights to visit, the father must first prove he is the father. To do so, he must file a court case or fill out an Administrative Legitimation Form with the State Vital Records office. An unwed biological father commits a crime if he just takes a child. The crime is called Interference with Custody. Talk to your district attorney’s office about filing charges if this occurs.

Grandparents or Other Third Parties. Grandparents can ask the court for visitation rights. They first must prove “special circumstances.”

Department of Family and Children Services. The Department of Family and Children Services can ask the court for custody if DFCS believes the child is deprived. The county must prove that the parents are unfit and the evidence must be clear and convincing. A Juvenile Court hears these cases. A low-income parent has the right to a free lawyer in Juvenile Court. If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask for a lawyer in writing. Give your request to the clerk of Juvenile Court. Do this as soon as you know about your case.

What The Court Looks At To Decide Custody

In most cases, the court looks at the best interest of the child to decide which parent should get custody. Which parent cared for the child in the past? Which parent can best care for the child in the future?

You need to take evidence with you to court that shows you can best care for your child. This is especially important if you do not have a lawyer.

Here are some items to consider. Who watches the child? Who feeds the child? Who gets her dressed and takes her to school? Who takes her to the doctor and gives her medicine? Who bathes him? Who takes care of him when he is sick? Who cleans? Who plays with the child and helps with homework? Who has contacts with the school? Who spends time elsewhere? Who drinks or does drugs? Does the other parent have a criminal record? Is either parent living with another person? You need witnesses who can show that the child is better off with you. Family members, neighbors, teachers, friends, church contacts, police or caseworkers may be good witnesses. School, medical, police or county DFCS records also may help prove you would be the better parent. You should get copies of any records that will help you.

How Family Violence Affects Custody

The court needs to know if there has been any violence in your home. A judge must make the safety of the child and the abused parent the primary focus of the custody decision and must consider violence against the parent when deciding custody. Watching violence against the parent can harm a child as much as abuse of the child.

Child Support

The parent who raises the child is entitled to child support from the other parent. To get a copy of the financial forms the court needs to decide child support, go to /SupportCalc.

Kinds of Custody

Courts often give custody to one parent. The other parent usually gets visiting rights. The courts also can give joint custody. This means that both parents have the right to make decisions for the child.

Joint custody often results in lower or no child support. It also means that both parents must agree on decisions for their child. Joint custody will not work for you or your child if you and the other parent cannot agree. Think carefully about joint custody and talk to your lawyer.

Other Custody Laws

A child who is 14 years old or older may choose which parent to live with. The court will accept the child’s choice unless the judge decides that it is not in the child’s best interest to be with that parent. A parent who is illegally keeping a child cannot be given custody.

Changing a Custody Order

What can you do if you don’t win custody? Remember that you can ask the court to change a custody order. You must show that the situation has changed and that now you can best raise the child.

Other Helpful Brochures

Brochures on child support, public benefits, domestic violence and other topics are also available through your local Georgia Legal Services office.


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Filing for child custody means that you petition the Court for specific orders determining parenting time, decision-making and child support, giving you legal and practical rights and responsibilities for the upbringing of the child.

Filing for child custody means that you petition the Court for specific orders determining parenting time, decision-making and child support, giving you legal and practical rights and responsibilities for the upbringing of the child.

Emotions and tensions tend to run deep when making decisions about the children during a relationship breakup. This often complicates the process of reaching an agreement with the other parent.

As such, it’s vital to understand the process if you want to file for child custody in Colorado so that you can prepare properly. People often refer to “sole custody” but Colorado does not use that terminology. Parenting time is where the child is physically (e.g. regular parenting time, summers, holidays) and decision-making is how major medical, educational, and religious decisions are made for the child (i.e. together or one party acting on his/her own).

Here we take you through a five-step process.

5 steps to file for child custody in Colorado

The precise steps you take to file for child custody in Colorado may vary depending on your individual circumstances (whether you are married and filing for divorce, unmarried with children, or seeking a change to existing custody arrangements, for instance).

However, the following five basic steps cover most custody situations

1. Determine what Parenting Time and Decision-making Provisions are in your child(ren)’s best interests.

If your relationship is ending, try (if possible) to discuss child custody with the other parent and try to come to an agreement about it. You can petition the court for custody together or separately. Filing the petition is the first step in determining child custody.

In most cases, the Colorado court prefers joint decision-making, where both parents have equal responsibility in making major decisions for the benefit of the child even if the child spends more time with one parent than the other.

However, in some cases, this will not be possible or desirable. Sole custody is where only one parent has decision-making authority, regarding major education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. Often in the Petition you will need to set forth what you believe is in the child(red)’s best interests and why.

2. File a Petition

You will need to complete each of the following forms to file for custody in Colorado:

  • Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000)
  • Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1413)
  • Summons to Respond to Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1414)
  • Order for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1422)

Download these forms here .

To file the forms, you will need to visit the district court in the county where your child currently lives.

The clerk will provide you with a “Case Management Order”, detailing the upcoming court dates and any other forms that you will need.

3. Serve the other parent

If you are filing alone, the other parent must be notified or “served”.

To do this, a process server or sheriff must deliver forms JDF 1413 and JDF 1414 to them and follow the “personal service” process . The court then requires proof that the notice has been served.

4. Attend the Initial Status Conference (ISC)

Upon filing for child custody, the date for your Initial Status Conference (ISC) should be contained within your Case Management Order.

You must attend this hearing with the other parent and proceedings will be outlined to you from there by the judge, magistrate, or family court facilitator.

5. Prepare and notarize a parenting plan OR attend a hearing

If you reach agreements, the parenting plan is the key document that will assist the court in ordering the custody arrangements for your child(ren). This can occur when parties reach agreements on their own or through mediation. If parties cannot reach agreements, the Court will make the decisions for you and your family at a hearing.

Should you hire legal assistance to file for child custody?

Bear in mind that in child custody cases, the judge always has one overriding concern: the best interests of the child(ren).

As such, any petition for custody must be comprehensive and provide strong evidence that the proposed child custody arrangement meets those best interests.

Often, this requires the guidance of an experienced child custody lawyer who is familiar with the family court system in Colorado. That will provide you with the best chance of a positive outcome in your child custody request.

It is possible to file for custody without a lawyer (this is called “pro se” litigation) and this is most common where both parents file together and are in agreement.

However, generally speaking, if you are applying for sole custody or seeking a modification of an existing court order so that you have shared parental responsibilities, this is extremely difficult without legal assistance.

You may need to provide strong evidence of responsibility in past parenting activities or reasons why the other parent should not have equal responsibility.

It can be especially tough to deal with an ex-partner who challenges your petition without the support of an experienced lawyer.

The child custody lawyers at Colorado Legal Group provide a free case evaluation if you are in this position and need guidance.

When parents break up, they don’t always agree on who will have custody of the children. If they ask a judge to decide, what will the decision be based on?

Factors Judges Use When Deciding Custody

The most important factor in deciding who gets custody is the best interests of each child.

To find out what is in a child’s best interest, judges consider these factors, among others:

  • children’s ages
  • needs of the children
  • each parent’s ability to meet the children’s needs
  • relationship between the children and each parent
  • relationship between the children and other family members
  • keeping stability in children’s lives
  • children’s physical and mental health
  • physical and mental health of the parent who wants custody
  • time each parent has available to spend with the children
  • lifestyles of each parent, if this has a direct impact on children
  • situation of the brothers and sisters, and keeping all the children together if possible
  • willingness of each parent to help the children have a good relationship with the other parent

Some Factors Judges Don’t Use When Deciding Custody

The judge doesn’t take these factors into account when deciding which parent gets custody:

  • whether parents are living with new partners or have remarried
  • parents’ sexual orientation
  • previous actions of one parent concerning the other (for example, adultery)
  • parents’ cultural background

However, the judge can keep these factors in mind if they affect the children’s best interests. For example, the judge can take into account the fact that one of the parents had been violent towards the other in the past.

Types of Custody

Judges must decide which type of custody is in the best interest of the children, given all of the circumstances. These are the two types of custody:

  • joint custody
  • sole custody, with or without visiting rights

Joint Custody

“Joint” or “shared” custody is when a child spends between 40% and 60% of the time with each parent, that is, between 146 and 219 days each year.

Sole Custody

“Sole” custody is when a child spends more than 60% of the time with only one parent, that is, more than 219 days each year.

How to get child custody

Child custody arrangements can be extremely difficult to tackle when two people have gone through the ordeal of a divorce or separation.

The individual who will be granted responsibility for the care of a child is determined by child custody law in the UK. In most cases, child custody is granted to the mother, and the father has his contact rights and arrangements set out.

However, a number of organisations are trying to increase the prominence of joint custody in the UK to ensure that fathers are allowed greater contact with their children following a relationship breakdown.

As long as a parent has parental responsibility, he or she should have an opportunity to be involved in the making of important decisions about their child’s life, such as when the child spends time with each parent and other important people in their lives. A Cordell & Cordell Child Custody Lawyer makes it their mission is to protect these parental rights, establishing a playing field that is fair to all parties.

In order to prevent confusion, the terminology surrounding custody is outlined below:


The well-known term ‘custody’ is now more commonly referred to as ‘residency.’ This term refers to the location of the children’s main residence following the break-up of that child’s parents.

Factors Determining Outcome of Custody

If you have ever been involved in a child custody case, or you are about to begin one, you most likely have heard the phrase “best interests of the child”. This is almost universally used to determine custody and visitation issues based on the Best Interests of the Child Standard.

Case law defines this standard differently, but in general, there are certain common-sense factors and themes that appear the majority of the time. The list of factors fall into four categories:

1. The historical picture examining each parent’s role in nurturing the child since birth;

2. The prospective picture considering the parents’ situations going into the future;

3. Status concerns referring to the personality or behavioural traits of each party; and

4. The preference of the child.

Shared Custody

Shared custody is also known as joint custody, shared residency or shared parenting.

This type of custody allows the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Shared custody also enables both parents to have equal involvement in key decision-making that will impact the child.

The courts will decide on which living arrangements are in the best interest of the child if the parents are unable to agree on a decision.

Shared Custody and the UK

As part of a new Children and Family Bill in 2013, it was announced: “Ministers intend to strengthen the law to ensure children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation where that is safe and in the child’s best interests.”

Shared custody is a highly popular choice throughout Europe and the USA. However, the adoption of joint custody arrangements has been slower to develop in the UK.

A number of organisations are working to increase the prominence of joint custody in this country.

Benefits of Joint Custody

Joint custody boasts a number of advantages for parents and children alike:

  • Both parties continue to share parenting responsibility.
  • Separated fathers can see their children regularly and are granted more involvement in their lives.
  • The children have two homes, which gives them more security and stability.
  • Children continue to have a real family life with both parents.

Standard Contact Order

Joint custody differs considerably from a standard contact order. With a standard contact order, one parent is granted the majority of the responsibility for the child.

The other parent, usually the father, is allowed to spend time with the children at the weekend or on selected weekdays.

Your Legal Rights

As the father of your children, you are legally entitled to have involvement in any major decisions which impact upon their lives.

If your wife has custody of the children, she is granted the responsibility for their everyday upbringing and she has the final say in any decision-making.

You have the right to be involved in any key matters such as medical or financial decisions that affect your child and you should seek appropriate advice if you are being denied this right.

Raising Joint Custody in Mediation

It should be stressed that although joint custody is currently not commonly adopted at present in the UK, it is an option that should be brought up within mediation sessions and discussed as a potential custody solution.

Numerous organisations are actively trying to increase the prominence of this type of custody in the UK and see it granted more visibility.

It is also becoming increasingly common to grant children the opportunity to say where they would like to spend their time, as opposed to having to make a definitive decision and choose between their parents.

Find out how much child maintenance you or your ex partner need to pay using our innovative child maintenance calculator.

If you require help or assistance with Child Custody, don’t suffer in silence, contact us today. The divorce solicitors of Cordell & Cordell are happy to help with any child custody or child maintenance issue.