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Shared Custody of Your Children

Author: Chris Nickson - Updated: 11 October 2014 | commentsComment
Contact Residency Visitation Custody

There are numerous questions surrounding shared custody. What is it? How does it work? And how is it different to contact (as visitation is called these days)?

In many instances, residence (custody) is granted to the mother, and you, as the father have your contact rights set out. With shared custody, your children split their time between their mother and you. The amount varies – it can be as much as 70% with the mother, for instance – but it means you have much greater contact with them. It presumes, of course, that both the mother and father are fit parents.

UK Lagging Behind

It’s an idea that has widespread popularity in Europe, and in the U.S. it’s becoming more common, although the UK has lagged behind in adopting it.

Shared custody demands a high level of commitment from both parents. If you’re going to have your children for three days a week, then during that time you have you need to make sure your schedule revolves around them.

The Advantages of Shared Custody

Shared custody, shared residency or shared parenting as it's also known, can offer several distinct advantages, both for parents and children. For separated fathers, it means they can be far more involved with their children, seeing them on a regular, extended basis every week. Moreover, it also means that neither parent is carrying the entire burden of parenting while the other is considered absent.

With standard Contact Orders, one parent has the majority of responsibility for the day-to-day routine, while the other – usually the separated father – sees the children at the weekend or selected weekdays.

Shared custody means your Children Have Two Homes, two stable bases where they can feel secure. Above all, it means they continue to have a real family life with both parents, which makes them feel more loved.

Research has determined that when children have experience of shared custody they have better relationships with both parents and are more satisfied with their lives. It’s also shown that even when there’s strong animosity between the parents, shared custody works well for the children.

The Disadvantages of Shared Custody

For shared custody to work, you have to live fairly close to you ex, for your children to continue to attend the same schools, see their friends, and so on. This can create social problems for the parents, since proximity means an increased chance of contact with your Ex Partner.

Also, if your job or circumstances change and you have to move elsewhere, then the change from shared custody to contact can create emotional problems for your children (the same can apply if your ex has to move for any reason). In other words, by its nature there has to be a certain amount of flexibility in the plan.

Shared Custody in the UK

At present, shared custody/residency is not the norm in Britain, although several organisations are trying to increase its visibility and prominence. The Shared Parenting Information Net and the Equal Parenting Council are both working to make it a very acceptable option here.

Just because it's not necessarily the norm, does not mean you can’t bring up the idea in Mediation or through your solicitor as a viable means of custody. In most instances, children are also given a say in where they spend their time, and where they have excellent relationships with both parents, it means they’re not in a position where they have to “choose” between Mum and Dad.

What Next?

Why not have a read through our article on Making Joint Decisions About Your Child's Future for some advice and guidance on how you and your ex partner can make parenting decisions together.

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To all parents out there who share custody of a child... what are your arrangements regarding Christmas time? My ex will not let me have our daughter at Christmas time and tells me I have no hope if I took her to court. We share access through the year on her terms. Feeling very lost at the moment so all advice would be greatly appreciated? Thanks
chino - 11-Oct-14 @ 1:42 PM
Sorry I forgot to mention it's for hight school. We have to have our decision for September 2015.
delamorphic - 6-Oct-14 @ 9:25 AM
Hi,I have a joint custody order via the courts. My son is in yr 5 and I have made a suggestion to his mother about a school that is exactly half way between our homes. She is telling our son that he lives in her district and therfore she will decide on the school. Last yr she told him he was going to one around the corner from where she lives. Now she is telling him he can go to one miles away because one of his friends is going there. What can I do to make sure we both choose his school and that she sticks to it?I've tried talking to her but she still goes away and tells our son she will choose.
delamorphic - 6-Oct-14 @ 9:22 AM
I share custody of my 3 children with my ex wife. We split at her insistence 4 years ago and we have successfully shared 50/50 custody of the children. I am now in another relationship; someone who I've introduced to my children gradually and who they've responded well too. This has upset my ex wife and she has notified me through a lawyer that the current arrangement should be re-assessed because the children have "expressed unhappiness". I believe this to be untrue as I have excellent relationships with my children and know they are happy. I also think she has gone down this route because the only thing a judge would take into account before precedence would be childs opinion. What can I do? I absolutely do not want to give up my time with the children but equally I'd try to avoid situations where they are put in the middle; exactly what I've avoided since the split. Any advice welcome.
wolf258 - 22-Sep-14 @ 9:47 PM
Hi all i have 2 kids a daughter whos 3 this saturday and a son whos 1 i want some kind of paper work or agreement though the court thats set in stone which allows me to see my kids as per the agreements i made with my ex the reason i want it doing legally is everytime its my time with the kids or my weekend the ex makes plans for kids with her so i cant see them and she also wont let me see the kids on their birthdays or xmas or things like that because she wants to spend all day/holiday with them and her family meaning i dont see them at all HELP
karl - 16-Sep-14 @ 9:00 PM
Hi, we were a very lovely family until I found her having affair with a African man who also her colleague. she wanted to divorce from me and I agreed. she submitted divorce application where she write down all lies about me and wrote I can see my son whenever I want, just give her time to make him ready. I signed divorced letter only for the option I can see my son any time. after that she stop me to see my son several occasion.if she doesn't like anything I told related my son, she stop to see my son. I got married and she as well. several times I talked with her for our son's best interest we have to work together to make him happy. but anything happened she and her husband stop me to see my son, several occasion she threatened me that she has now big black group family and also she wants to call police. before she and her husband called police and I told police my son live here and they didn't let me to see him, but police team told me go to court to sort out this. few months back my ex didn't want to see my son, even I wanted to take him holidays but she didn't let me to take him. after that I told her I will go to court to sort this, coz every other weeks you give me trouble, but her dad called and told me sort it by ourself. in respect of that gentlemen I agreed and she also agreed what we said. now she doesn't want to give my son, she won't let me to go to his school or talk with teacher. she wants her husband will be the father of my son in the school. Now I wanted to go to court for share residents as I don't want my son miss his mum. Can you please help me in this and how can I get my right. I like to mention that every month I give monthly allowance to my ex through CSA.
bobrahman - 16-Sep-14 @ 8:40 PM
I have a daughter with my ex I have been kicked ou t of our home and living with family how do I proceed to get joint custody of our daughter so I can see her without her mum always there??
jakey - 11-Sep-14 @ 7:15 PM
Hi All, My 11 year old daughter wants to come and live with me, I have to take her back to her mums today after spending about a month with me this summer and she really does not want to go. Her mother is difficult; for instance she moved my daughters school without consent to the furthest point from my home just to inconvenience me (one of her friends told me this, I just assumed it was because of the school bus)..anyway I digress, Does anyone know the law in this instance or have any advice? My plan is to take her back to her mum's and 'try' to help my daughter explain but I fear she will not listen and dismiss my daughters requests.. Or can I simply not return her? keep her with me?
Anxious - 2-Sep-14 @ 3:55 PM
Child custody cases and decision always spark up a debate. Actually it is not fair on any of the parents to denied of the custody of their child, but then when there is a court case one has to win and the other has to lose. None of the parents would want to lose the custody of their child so the best thing they can do is to hiire a good lawyer from a reputed child support law firm who can help them to win the case.
Anne - 22-Aug-14 @ 12:00 PM
@Benn, have a look on our facebook page there are lots of dads on there who have been in your position and are more than willing to offer help and advice. Good luck mate!
SeparatedDads - 7-Aug-14 @ 12:12 PM
As a young father when i split with my ex of 5 years (never married) i found out quite quickly that She was going to make my life very difficult, which she has, when she's invited me up to her house to see the child her and her mother have claimed i've become very abusive very fast and called the police. so after that i had no contact. "2 years ago" and finally after a extremely lengthy process i've got my first hearing in 3 weeks time. any advice?
Benn - 6-Aug-14 @ 1:11 PM
Sadly I hit my gorgeous wife she would start an argument and things got out of hand she has hit me also but I am ashamed she took out an injunction against me and I now have lost her and my kids I would do anything to get her back.we went to court for access to kids and I was expecting her to call me she did not intact the opposite she began to cry so did I.The judge said it was commendable what I said about her.I feel she must still love me otherwise she would have sat without any emotions.Is there anything I can do to get her back.sadly it's her family that are the problem.Can someone advise me please.My life is not the same without her.
big mac - 16-Jul-14 @ 10:01 AM
Please read this epetition and sign up if you want to put a stop to CMS charges, please get your friends and families to sign up too, every votes counts: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65354
Dad & Mum - 15-Jul-14 @ 11:52 PM
My ex girlfriend lying to child support claiming i have not paid maintenance from day one i havebin now as there no proof as i was paying cash to her in hand now i owe 1500 wat can i do
Daniel Mcness - 15-Jul-14 @ 4:35 PM
@stella, the costs of travelling should be split, it's unfair and unrealistic to expect one party to pay for the entire cost of travelling between Cape Town and London.
pete - 8-Jul-14 @ 11:00 AM
I live in Cape Town and my kids dad in East London we whr never married,so what i would like to know is who is respon for travelling fair to and from Cape Town and East London?
Sella - 8-Jul-14 @ 10:54 AM
Hello everyone, just need some advice please. I have shared custody and wish to take my child on holiday during my set custody time. My ex is refusing to give me his passport.Does anyone know the process of what I should do. Any advice would be much appreciated.Thank you
Steve - 19-Jun-14 @ 10:27 AM
I only have one thing to say UK LAW SUX, let drug dealers, murderers and paedophiles back out on to our streets just because they need the beds. Foreign immigrants have more rights than UK citizens, I have no rights as a father.
Jay - 15-Jun-14 @ 4:28 PM
Ive been separated from my wife for the past 3 months tho the relationship broke down maybe a yr or two before. Initially we had agreed for us to have our kids on alternate weekends and then one or 2 nights in the week i would go watch them at hers so that she could work (she started self employed work last october), in t last couple of weeks she has demanded that they stay at mynhouse on at least 2 nights per week when ive not got them at the weekend (Tues & Thurs nights) and then an additional 2 nights on the weekends where i do have them (i was already having them Fri and sat nights but apparently the Friday might isn't a week night its part of the weekend??) so those weekends i have them Mon, wed, fro and sat nights, which dont get me wrong i love spending time with my kids but in paying maintenance of £200 month for them to spend 6 nights out of 14 with me, she is now also demanding i make my employer change my working hours so that i can take the kids to school the mornings after the night ive had them - this is because she claims that she can't do her work and why should she have to sacrifice her work when i wont. To me she is my children's primary carer and hence she is the one who needs to make more of the sacrifices, am i being harsh on thinking that? It seems that her work and new social life at time seem to take priority over looking after the kids. Need some advice as to what my options are. Thank you
smith946 - 28-May-14 @ 8:46 PM
Just wondering about shared custody.. say I have my kids 2-3 times a week and my ex has them 3-4 times a week do I still need to pay child maintenance ?? due to work commitments I cant have my kids any more days of the week and 3 days a week is a fair amount of time and money gets spent on them just think its unfair that I still need to pay my ex£120 a month for child maintenance. Just wondering does anyone have issues or any information on matters like this?
fobs - 27-May-14 @ 10:37 PM
Looking through the news online today i saw proposals about child maintenance changes whereby the "absent" parent has deductions taken from their pay. this got me thinking and i could not find much info from the news article itself, or the gov webpage. my situation is that without any official agreement i share all parental rights responsibilities and time with my ex over our 3yr old. Everything is "even" between us when it comes to the child except i believe she gets child maintenance and child tax credits income support amongst other things and a part time job. But as in the past i have signed a form declaring that my ex is the "first parent", through bad definition mind you, this is because i don't want the time he spends with her to be compromised in this respect. does anyone know any information that may be helpful in how the changes may affect my situation.
MM - 23-May-14 @ 12:05 AM
Yesterday I attended court regarding contact with my children but the Cafcass officer requested a section 7 where they have 12 weeks to assess me for an alcohol and gambling problem. I am not an alcoholic but do have a bit of a gambling problem. This is due to my wife telling them this. Does anyone know how Cafcass will go about assessing me for these things and is there a way that I can help improve their judgement here? Thanks
marco - 21-May-14 @ 3:40 PM
Hi All, After just short of 14 years of marriage my Wife and I have split up and there is no chance of any reconciliation. We have 5 children between 9 and 14. We have also agreed to split up and remain as friends. I will be homeless at the end of this month and our children will be living with their Mother, but I can see them as and when I and they want to. I am hoping that my local authority will help me out with temporary housing. When I get a place of my own it is agreed between my Wife and I that I will have shared residency of our children.eg: 3 days a week at my house, as well as whenever they wish to pop in throughout the day etc.And having them more through school holidays too. My question is: Can I call it "Shared Residency" on the letter to my Local authority and to my local social housing group, in a letter from my Wife to say that our marriage has broken down, we have split up, and that there is no chance of any re-conciliation, please? or can those words be ONLY used when parents go to court and they say so. Like I say, we have mutually agreed between us, and do not wish to go to court, put our children through that or want or need the expense and stress of it all. Many thanks in advance.
Dad - 13-May-14 @ 10:16 AM
Hi guys, looking for some advice. I have had shared custody of my 2 kids for nearly 6 months. Things at first seemed ok, but now there is no communication between me and there mother and this is from her side as she refused to discuss the kids with me. Also my children come back unhappy from hers and ask if they can stay here. They tell me she has been smcking them and that she does not do anything with them. To be honest why she was so determind to have full custody. I don't no what to do? As a mother she has a right to disapline our children even if its somthing I refuse to do. But them being unhappy is not right. If I was to to go for full custody there would be no proof as they would not ask the kids because of there age and I don't want to risk loosing what I already have. Help!
dave - 2-May-14 @ 12:19 PM
my partner has shared residency and his ex is talking about moving away is she allowed to do this
Monica - 7-Mar-14 @ 5:36 PM
Kate, I agree with you. The courts are set up to favour abusive men and like you, my ex got shared residence and does not comply with the order. He never returns our 4 year old on time, keeps taking me to court and makes life hell. My experience has been the same as yours. The Cafcass officer in my case seemed to have just heard his side and told me that she did not have to consider domestic abuse as it was not the job of Cafcass. It's a nightmare but the courts favour abusive fathers. I just wonder if the genuinely caring fathers who are interested in their children also find themselves suffering at the hands of a judiciary that are not qualified to deal with abuse and manipulation.
RebeccaM - 10-Feb-14 @ 9:15 PM
I was addicted for gambling the last two years. This starts 2 years ago when my ex-girlfriends starts pregnant. I was a first year university student by the time. I didn't have any job and we didn't had enough income for us. I was ready to have a baby but I accepted to be responsible and to support my girlfriend. one day my friend wants to go William hill beating shop and I followed him. he puts £5 in to machine and he won £453 within 20 minutes. I couldn't believe he get's £453 with in 20 minutes. when I get home I told my ex-girlfriend about this. after few day I start going the same place to win but I keep losing and I went back again to get my money back but I keep losing. since then, ilots a lots of money i couldn't control myself. always when i have money in my pocket something will push me to go there and play. sometimes took money from my ex-girlfriend to play without telling her. i was very straggling and worried. after we had our daughter. this gambling getting worst. my ex-girlfriend took my daughter away from me when out telling me. i didn't know what to do. i was depressed and stressed for long time. she refuse me not to contacted with her and my daughter with out court order. it has been more than 8 month now since i saw my daughter. i want to visit and support my daughter. my ex keep saying the court has to decide for me to visit her. what do i have to do.
sami - 9-Feb-14 @ 5:46 PM
My heart is now broken into a million pieces. It seems like everyone has conspired to take my beautiful child away from me, after six years of trying so hard to fight for what I thought was my child's best interest, and trying to fight against all the abuse by my ex. There's just been a Cafcass report done, and she did a hatchet job on me. She wrote things as fact that were not fact, reiterating the same tired old false allegations my ex has made against me for years from the moment I left him, all without evidence, just his word against mine. It's as if he wrote the report himself, and handed it to her, and she signed and submitted it. And it has always been like that with little exception. I have never really been believed. But I haven't lied. I've told the truth about him. He is an abuser, one of the worst, but one of the best at concealing it. At best, courts think we are as 'bad' as each other. That is the extent to which my ex has been held accountable for what has been extremely cruel and vindictive behaviour towards me. I guess I'm paying for too many women who have lied before me, because I cannot figure out why I am not believed or just simply dismissed when I'm telling the truth, and why he always seems to be believed or at least indulged when he is lying. I always knew he'd get me back for leaving him, that is his nature. I just wasn't sure how far he'd take it. I had hoped that he'd calm down after a year or two, or three, but it just didn't happen. I knew his nature, saw it in action when I was married to him. He would plot revenge against anyone who crossed him, sometimes even asking me to help him. I used to think 'let it go' because he just kept on and on about the slightest things other people 'did' to him, whether it was neighbours, or work colleagues, or just someone in his way at a shop. But he never let anything go. He always made sure he got people back, made them suffer in some way. I think he has deep rooted issues with his own father, who walked out on him when he was young, and never returned. This unresolved anger has manifested itself deep within him and his psyche, and I think ever since he's had the need to crush anyone who crosses him or who he perceives as having crossed him, or worse, anyone who leaves him. I crossed him in the worst way. I left him. Six years ago. I tried to be amicable. I never withheld contact, even before courts got involved. None of my good faith mattered. He plotted to chip away slowly, wear me down through repeated attacks over time, until he was finally able to take my child from me six years later. This included never leaving me in peace, stalking me, never showing any regard for myself as primary caregiver to our child, acting as sole parent to third parties, making false reports to police against me, and to social services, retaining our child beyond agreed times, isolation tactics, lying to and manipulating third parties, feigning victim, making constant false al
kate - 24-Jan-14 @ 11:22 PM
I've just had the most frustrating weekend ever.I am engaged to a guy who has a 6 year old with his ex wife.She raises the child together with her lesbian lover who controls this woman and the child in every which way, from me not being allowed to do any girly activities with the child as they insist she is a tomboy and wants to be a boy.This is an issue for another day.Point is, Dad and Mom have been divorced since she was 1.I came on the scene when she was 2. Their arrangement to date with regards to Christmas is that they alternate each year.In the 4 years I have been with my fiance, we have never had the opportunity of seeing the child on Christmas day, as they have always either been in a different province or have left just before Christmas.We're always having to make our own special occassions with the child, from birthdays, to Easter, to Christmas. This year is our turn to have her.Originally, back in September the ex wanted to have the child over Christmas as they were going to the seaside to visit family.It came out yesterday that they paid deposits on accommodation and when we refused, saying that our plans to go down to the seaside were not going to happen as we had hoped due to financial constraints, and the fact that my fiance had just started a new job and would not have leave this december, they cancelled their bookings, losing their deposit.At the time, I had said that because I am on compulsory leave from 13th, the child could come to us at any point from then on. They insisted on making it for when my fiance's Mom arrives which is the 22nd.We managed to convince them to bring her from the 20th, but the trade for them was that they have her over the long weekend coming up next week.We agreed. She would be with us from the 20th until the 28th. Then the ex wanted to know when she would see her child at christmas.As it is the first christmas where both my fiance and my family get to spend together before we marry, it's an important one for us.Also, my family do celebrations on christmas day, and have traditions that we wanted to include the child in as she has never really had the opportunity of waking with to her fathers family at christmas. My fiance expressed how important it was to him that he have his daughter for the whole day on christmas day, and that he wanted his child to wake up christmas morning with us and have breakfast with us as a family, and spend the day with my parents and family getting to know each other and allowing the child to enjoy the time with us. I proposed that they collect her or we drop her off on the afternoon of the 23rd, and have the child return the evening of the 24th, anytime before 8pm, allowing them the opportunity to do their own christmas with the child. This was not acceptable nor appreciated. Suddenly we had a choice of picking either christmas eve from 10am pm until 11am christmas morning that the child would be with her, or from 11pm o
Hopeless - 9-Dec-13 @ 12:33 PM
Hi - my comment is directed at James, and Lynzleybee, both of whom have asked for thoughts about Christmas. As a separated mum, who has an amicable relationship with my ex (it hasn't always been that way, and has required effort and compromise from us both), and a 50/50 shared parenting set-up, I feel very strongly that the mother does NOT and should not decide that 'Christmas is magical, and mine' - I alternate each year with my ex, and yes it does feel hard, and a little lonely when it isn't my turn - but this is about the children, not me! I feel particularly strongly about this because I also see the other side of the coin - my partner also has children..and his ex is vehemently opposed to him ever having his children on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or Boxing Day..for similar reasons that you give to justify your stance Lynzleybee - in my opinion that is punishing the children for the perceived 'sins' of the father. All I can say is this - I asked my children what they'd like to do, and they said 'we'd like to see both of you, so can we swap each year and make it fair' - their maturity does them credit. Perhaps you could ask your son what he'd like, and hope that he feels he can answer honestly, and without fear of upsetting you, or your ex? To James - no, the mother should not have priority - your daughter should, and your suggestion to alternate is eminently fair. End of.
Flower - 3-Dec-13 @ 5:00 PM
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