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Children & Child Custody

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Deciding on where your child lives

Deciding on where your child lives

Deciding where your children will live post-divorce is an area of child law advice Guildford we specialise in. It can be an incredibly emotive experience and we aim to guide you through it with the minimum of stress and in an easy to understand manner. We can talk you through all the options open to you, including your child’s views, before you need to make any decisions.

When a relationship breaks down and the parents will no longer be living together, then the child will usually live with one or other of them. The parent whom the child resides with for the majority of the time is called the ‘resident parent’ and the other will be described as the ‘non-residing parent’. If the child will spend equal time with each parent this is then called ‘shared residence’, this can be either half the week with each parent, or a week each in turn. There are no hard and fast rules for shared residence, as long as it is 50/50.

When deciding where the child will live you will first need to ascertain who has parental responsibility. If the parents were married, or if they are named on the birth certificate (after 1st December 2003) then they both have parental responsibility. Whilst this will show who has responsibility for the child it does not give an automatic right for the child to reside with one or other of you. Whether or not the parents were married will have no bearing on where the child should live, but it will be necessary to check if the father has parental responsibility as the mother will have it automatically. It is always better for the child if you can agree calmly between you on the child’s best interests when deciding where they will reside. However if you cannot then it will become a matter for the courts to make the decision and to put an arrangement in place.  As expereiced child law advice Guildford solicitors we will help you to navigate through the process as efficiently as possible.

The resident parent will be the one who makes the day to day decisions for the child, such as bedtime, homework, routine etc. basically anything household related. As long as the other parent has parental responsibility then any major decisions should be made together. These will include things like, which religion they are bought up in, which school they will attend and such like.  The non-resident parent is still able to attend the child’s school for meetings, parent’s evenings, assemblies etc., but the school’s first point of contact will usually be the resident parent, unless they have requested an alternative contact. Anyone with parental responsibility is able to sign consent forms for the child, i.e. for school trips etc.

For some families deciding on residency it will be an easy decision, as one parent will agree to leave the family home and move into separate accommodation, while the other parent will remain in the home and the child will remain with them to keep disruption to a minimum. However for other families it will be a difficult decision with lots of discussion and compromise to be made. As expert child law advice Guildford solicitors we can help you with all aspects of your case and ensure you receive the best possible advice pertaining to your situation.   If you cannot agree on residency arrangements and/or contact for your child you should contact a specialist family lawyer as soon as possible. There are many options open to you, including mediation. We can use our unique legal and psychological approach to make sure you engage in effective communication with each other to ensure your child’s best interests are met.

When you are discussing the residence arrangements for your child you can involve them in the decision making process, as long as they understand that it will be you that make the final decision (and not them) and that it will be made in their best interests and not to ‘point score’ off each other. It is a good opportunity for you to show your children that you can make choices for them without getting into heated discussions. In some families it may be that you do allow the child to decide on their living arrangements, this will be very much for each family to decide themselves and there is nothing in law to say that you can’t do this.  A child of around 12/13 years of age may well have a very firm idea of who they wish to live wish, and this should be considered, as if you need to go to court to resolve the issue, they will take their wishes into consideration when deciding your case. Obviously this varies from family to family and child to child as some younger children may be mature enough to understand and discuss this through with you, whereas some older children will not grasp the issue at all and will need you (the parents) to take the lead and make the decisions on their behalf.  Once your child is 16 years of age they are, usually, legally allowed to decide for themselves who they wish to live with, unless there is a court order in place specifying their living arrangements. If there is a court order in place this will usually last until the child is 18 years of age.

If there is an order in place, but the child wishes to live with the other parent then it will depend on the resident parent as to the next step: If they agree to the child residing with the other parent then there is no requirement to return to court to get the order amended: If they do not agree with the child residing with the other parent then the non-resident parent will be required to take the case to court to request that a change is made to the residence, through a Child Arrangement Order.

Here at Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors we have many years expertise in the field of child law advice Guildford and are best placed to help you with any issues arising in these cases. We will always treat you professionally, with courtesy and will ALWAYS ensure you fully understand any information we provide, or decisions you are required to make, before you make them. We always take a child centered approach, ensuring your child’s best interests are always met.

Call us today on 01483 826470 with any queries or questions you may have and let us help you to resolve any family issues.

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