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Shared Custody of Your Children

Author: Chris Nickson - Updated: 28 May 2015 | 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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Will try keep this short me and the wife separated before xmas but still lived in same house, it come out after that she had been sleeping with another man while our girls were 3 and 10 month old, I said she had had a breakdown and got anorexia at the time nobody wanted to listen, she had my baby in bed with this man after 10 days of my girls losing me, she moved my girls out one week before xmas which broke me and my 3 year old heart. she lasts 5 months with this bloke then says sorry for what she had done to the girls and knows it was not right and that she had been on the thrash since we split every wk end and that she was off work with a breakdown and anorexia but she was now going to make the girls a priority and they would help her get better, I thought she was very unstable and tried to go to her parents but they did not want to hear it even though when we first split they knew what she was doing was not normal or in character for there daughter. I have been having my girls 2 nights one week and 3 nights the following week since we split as that fitted in with her going out all the time in her new life. ten days after her and the first bloke split she is now with his mate who has left his partner of 12 years two kids 10 and 4 and she is also 6 months pregnant with his child at the moment, ten days after the last bloke she has now put this bloke in bed with my baby after saying sorry for doing that with the first, I have had to battle her to get the arrangements that we had as she thinks the kids are a weapon had to go to mediation after her messing around all the time and threating me with not seeing the girls, now after 2 weeks of been with the new bloke they plan to get a house and get married (we are still married at the moment) she has not even started the divorce process yet. my eldest told me about both men and does not want a new man in her house with mummy after the last one and never wants to go back and says can I run away from mummy and live with you daddy, this breaks my heart and the ex seems nothing wrong in having different men in such a short space is having an affect on my daughter, she has now stopped me from seeing my girls full stop and says its because I am poisoning my girls mind against her, mediation will no longer deal with her and are giving me the paperwork tp proceed to court, I have asked social services for help but if the girls are not in physical harm it seems she can put another man in bed every day and nothing can be done. if I could have full custody I would, I want joint custody at least when she started with the new bloke she will not allow me to call the girls when I did not have them and now will not let me see them as I say, can I put the application to the court myself and how hard is this to do, then I would get legal representation for the next stage. she is still off work at the moment and is not stable< what can I do ?
justice - 28-May-15 @ 1:35 PM
@sole - if you can't agree between yourselves about your son's access once he starts school and have issues that you can't resolve between yourselves, you might want to suggest going through mediation rather than him taking it to court. I have included a link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here which may give you both an alternative way around things.
SeparatedDads - 21-May-15 @ 2:46 PM
@misswhizz - if he takes it to court, then you will probably be asked if you can sort your issues out through mediation first. Please see article; Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? Link here which will explain the process. If you can't agree through the mediator (who will give you a chance to have your say), then it will go to court to decide what the judge thinks is in the best interest of your children. I can't anticipate what the court may decide. However, if your ex has a contact order he will have to stick to it and so will you, otherwise either could be in breach. In some respects that may benefit you as he will have to stick to his own arrangements which will include not turning up late. With regards to him making derogatory statements about you, then you will have to bring that up as an issue in mediation. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 20-May-15 @ 11:04 AM
Hi my husband and I separated last year and share a four year old son. He is inbetween houses every other day which I don't think is fair for him. He comes back with bruises and cuts as his father doesn't keep an eye on him and when I raise it with his dad he shouts at me and puts me down for being concerned about my son. He will be starting school in September and I have suggested that he stays with me and his father can see him in the week and every other weekend but his father has threatened to take me to court to fight out us having him a week at a time bt iv worked part time to raise my son and don't think he should tell me what my sons routine is and put me down for asking about cuts and bruises.
sole - 18-May-15 @ 12:20 PM
Hello I desperately need some help please. Cutting a very long story as short as I can, my ex and I split up last April. He was arrested for domestic abuse towards me in November 2012 and I have recently had a harassment order put on against him for abusive and relentless texts towards me and my now partner. I signed our joint house solely into his name without a financial settlement as a desperateattempt to keep things amicable for our two daughters, aged five yrs and seven yrs. He slags me off constantly to them telling them things that are inappropriate and potentially destructive to them (ie that mummy killed their brother or sister as I had an abortion..) he keeps them up ridiculously late on school nights, so much so that they look awful when nitpick them up from school the next day! Atm, the agreement between ourselves is that he has them for two nights during the week and one night over the weekend. He doesn't make them brush their teeth or anything else, they just sit there until all hours watching tv and eating sweets slagging me off to them. He takes the youngest one out of bed and wakes her up! He doesn't do the school runs but drops them off to me in the morning, albeit later than the agreed time! Yet he's demanding full custody and creating because, owing to the fact that he drives and I do not, I make him pick them up.. He's threatening me with court as I have threatened him with restricted access if he continues to mess with their heads. I just need to know where generally speaking I would stand if we did actually go to court? Thanks in advance for any advice
misswhizz - 16-May-15 @ 1:13 PM
@saz - if you are actually splitting up with him and you file for a divorce then you are entitled to half the estate as it is co-owned (unless he has some assets which he owned before you married which would be up to the courts to decide). As far as custody goes, you can either agree between you, attend mediation or let the courts decide who should have residency. Unless you agree to joint residency, it is likely it would be granted to you, the mother, and your husband have contact rights. It sounds as though your husband might be a bit of a bully and you may need to find some confidence to assert yourself with him with regards to your own legal rights. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 6-May-15 @ 12:29 PM
Hiya I am currently splitting with my husband and he has made it clear before that he would never let the kids leave or me to take them away. Our house is sold so would both b moving on. He said he would never agree to divorce unless had 50/50 split custody of our kids which I don't agree with at all. The idea of the kids moving between two homes all the time and not having a stable base and home. A solicitor said that it would b more likely that they stay with mum and a 5 day and 2 day split is most likely. He still has me concerned how I could ever make this happen.He would never let me leave. The house is in his name so what if he tries to hide the money after the sale. He has said I couldn't buy anywhere with my share of the proceeds. There is more tgan enough for a deposit and j kmow i coild afford to.live without him.I am worried there is no way out. I don't actually want to separate but he has told me he won't spend any time with me anymore, he says I am too critical of him all the time and we will do our own things when kids in bed. Separate lives living together, which I would separate before doing. Especially considering he expects me to move away from my friends and family as well as put up with that. Any advice greatly received.
saz - 5-May-15 @ 8:27 PM
@Billy - this must be hard for you. Have you tried to speak to him to find out? He might just be at a funny age. You have to really try to get into his head and see what it is that might be bothering him. Can you think if there is anything he might no like when you have him? Do you take him out and do things with him? Or it might be that he is a bit of a mummies boy. I would think of some nice things to do with him, so that he is excited when he comes. As far as your rights go you can take it to court in order to get your time alone with him. Or ask your ex to go to mediation to try and sort the issue out without dragging it through the courts.
Abi - 30-Apr-15 @ 2:32 PM
@missingmygirl - I have posted your comment on our Separated Dads Facebook page in order to let our followers help you answer your question. As dads they can come up with some great advice as many have been through similar issues before, or had to fight for access and have come out the other side. Please refer to the page for answers and suggestions. I hope it helps.
SeparatedDads - 29-Apr-15 @ 2:57 PM
I took my ex wife to court last and successfully was awarded an access order whereby I have contact with my daughter every Wednesday evening and also every 2nd weekend for 3 nights. My ex is going on a hen weekend (on the weekend when I do not have contact) and has said my daughter will go and stay with her grandparents for the two nights my ex is away on the hen weekend. I personally think it is in my daughters best interests that she comes to stay with me as she enjoys coming to stay there. Surely a parent has mroe right than a grandparent in these situations?
John - 29-Apr-15 @ 11:14 AM
@Sandra - your son is too young to be consulted on his opinion, so he wont be asked. As much as he may be a 'daddies boy', the court will always rule towards what it thinks is in the best interests of your child. If he is stable, happy and has consistency in his life, then the court will not try to upset this balance. The court will still usually rule in favour of any child staying with its mother, unless the parent applying for residency can prove that it is not in the best interests for the child to remain where he is. From what you are staying this sounds pretty unlikely. If you separate for good it is healthier to try and come to an agreed arrangement between yourselves about who has your son and when. It works much better if you can both agree between you what you think is in his best interests.
PaulV - 29-Apr-15 @ 10:53 AM
My husband currently has his daughter on a Tuesday evening for dinner and every other Friday evening with the child leaving for School from ours on Monday morning. The childs mother is struggling with disacplining or setting any bounderies for the child and is now facing the wrath of a uncontrollable teenager (only in her home) and has asked us to have the child full time as she can not cope. We have said we can not do full time as we both work a min of a 46 - 48 hour week and to be honest as the new wife, having a full time family was never in the plan (I am 40 and have never had children as I didnt want that life style). We offered to try and have Sophie 7 days on and 7 days off as a compromise to enable the daughter and the mother to rebuild their failed relationship. We have tried this but it is too much with the hours we both work and fitting in seeing my husbands older (19) son once a week, meaning we actually have kids 8 nights out of 14. We have said that we can only do 6 nights with Sophie and 1 with James but the ex is being totally unreasonable as it means she can not stay with her boyfriend a week at time. Any suggestions on how to resolve?
sylvie - 28-Apr-15 @ 7:48 PM
Hi me and my sons mother split when he was 3 months old. Since then i have had him every weekend and now he his 3 and a half years old and is saying he does not want to go daddys, so his mother does not let him stay at mine anymore and i have to see him at her house with her. Which i do not want to do, i do not know what has changed his mind. My name is on the birth certificate, so what are my rights?
Billy - 27-Apr-15 @ 6:20 PM
@Chris - rather than take it to court, which may cause some animosity if your ex is being co-operative, why not suggest mediation and a written agreement, so that you both know what part you will play post-split. You may be interested in our partner page: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? Link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 27-Apr-15 @ 12:55 PM
I have recently seperated 5 weeks ago and contact with my daughter (6) was great, I had her sleepover 3 nights last week and took her out for tea and to park every alternate day, up until last week, when things turned sour. When I dropped my daughter at my ex wifes house she informed me (in front of my daughter) that I will not be seeing my daughter as much in the future as it effects her Child Maintenance and tax credits. Naturally I hit the roof and she has now made false allegations of domestic abuse and harrasment. Ive had a visit from the police telling me to stay away from the family home (My Ex's) not to contact my ex wife whatsoever and that she now has a solicitor acting for her and getting legal aid. I have been allowed my daughter tonight from 5 PM for a sleepover but a third party must pick up and drop off at 7AM tomorrow morning, so I will only get 2-3 hours quality time with her before bed. I have not seen my daughter for a week now and I am very much missing her, I have a meeting with mediation today but as she alleges domestic violence I dont think mediation is allowed in those circumstances. I am at a loss Could anyone please advise me what to do,
missingmygirl - 27-Apr-15 @ 7:55 AM
This is the 3rd time I have split with my 5year olds dad. He finishes it and then wants to come back and be a family. However This is the last time. He hasnt moved out yet However he always makes me feel Guilty that I'm the one that gets to see our son everyday. He is doing well work wise and I'm pretty sure he will try and and get 50/50 if not more. He is on birth certificate. My son is 5 and at the minute is very daddy's boy. Would they ask him who he wants to live with either mummy and daddy if his dad wanted full custody? Would he ever be grated with full custody? This is killing me that I could lose my son.
Sandra - 26-Apr-15 @ 4:47 PM
I am just about to get my own place and move out of the family home. Everything is very amicable and my X has said she doesn't want to stop me seeing my daughter and she can stay over etc. All seems well but my concern is that if and when another partner comes on the scene this could change. Is it worth going for joint custody to stop this happening in the future or better to cross that bridge when it comes to it in the hope my relationship with my daughters mother stays decent as it is now?
Chris - 24-Apr-15 @ 5:25 PM
@Ken - great news for you! The term, shared custody, is often used as a synonym for joint custody. Both shared custody and joint custody fall into the category of shared parenting - all much of a muchness really.
Ed - 15-Apr-15 @ 2:57 PM
@Natty - it is highly unlikely the court will grant him a residency order when he doesn't have parental responsibility and his name is not on the birth certificate. He will be able to take you to court to gain PR and possibly a contact order. As specified in the article in many instances, residence (custody) is granted to the mother, and the father has contact rights set out. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 15-Apr-15 @ 1:57 PM
@bob - you would really have to apply for a prohibited steps order orspecific issue order through the courts if you wanted him not to be around your children.
Abi - 14-Apr-15 @ 2:26 PM
I've just been granted shared custody of my children, 50/50 which is great news. I am concerned that I have was not granted joint residency of my children. Has any other parents had a problem gaining this? How long should I wait before reapplying for this as I think the decision was a bit strange.
Ken - 13-Apr-15 @ 5:03 PM
My Ex went through court with his first child. The Mother wanted shared residency (50/50 contact) and father wanted full residency (where the mother had child at weekend). The court went in favour of the mother and shared residency was granted at exactly 50/50. Now we have a child but are separated and my ex wants to go to court for full residency. He's not on the birth certificate because I was afraid that this would happen. I will be fighting for full residency and completely refusing 50/50 or full custody to him. I cannot bear the thought of losing my baby and do not want to have him for only half of the time. I also have a child to a previous relationship but when we split we came to an amicable agreement where dad has our child one night a week from midday until bed time the following day and this works really well for both us and our child. I would want something like this to take place with my younger child but my ex is going to fight. I have a disability but this hasn't hindered me from raising my eldest child in any way. What are the chances that the court will side with him?
Natty - 13-Apr-15 @ 1:11 AM
If my ex is living with someone who isn't ment to be living there as she claiming benefits.The new partner has a restraining order against them and I am concerned about my kids being left alone with them as she is at work and Im at work also so can't take on xtra days with them. I get them most weekends from fri to sunday.
bob - 11-Apr-15 @ 11:27 PM
@Emmie - if she won't meet him halfway voluntarily, then the only thing he can really do is try and enforce it via a court order.
SeparatedDads - 7-Apr-15 @ 11:57 AM
My partners ex wife moved 2 hrs away when they seperated and will not meet him half way when he as the kids he also as them most school holidays she also won't let him have them Xmas day he can only have them new year so she can go out , she says he as to pick and drop them off because he left her and it's all his fault it as been nearly 4 year is there anything he can do because he mainly works weekends and he's finding it hard to get back in time to start work she's keeps saying it's his responsibility not hers but if he can't pick them up don't have them sometimes it can take longer than 2 hrs and I've complained that it could cause an accident all the driving then working thank you for any help
Emmie - 3-Apr-15 @ 3:50 PM
@Eddie Riff - it is the same thing really, there is no difference between shared care and shared residency. When it comes to the benefits, this should really be sorted out between you. As a rule the benefits can only be allocated to the one parent who has the majority care. You will have to assess who buys all the clothes and pays for the general day-to-day upkeep of the child. As difficult as it may be, you may have to either sit down and sort this out between you and if you can't perhaps take it to mediation. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 2-Apr-15 @ 10:15 AM
My ex and I are going through a seperation, this was put down to her being depressed, she hasn't worked since before Christmas and tells me she has no intention of working either. She used to pass comments to me that she would be better off financially without me living off benefits (what a joke that was when she didn't pay for a single bill in the house). When she was working my mother would look after our two year old on a Monday, my ex is putting a total stop to this, what rights would she have? My ex is offering me a Thursday night and Friday night then every other Saturday, I find this unreasonable and would like to challenge, would I have much chance of getting more access?
Lewie - 1-Apr-15 @ 10:44 PM
@stace - he is within his rights to see his son, but this is something you should really be able to sort out between you. But if you do not want him to see his son on that specific day then he would have to take it back to court and let the court decide.
Paul - 1-Apr-15 @ 1:59 PM
Can anyone give me a helping hand please. I'll cut a very long story short in that my son, caught up in a nasty marriage split has had quite a lot of access to his kids, however, he wanted full 50/50 shared care. He has managed to get it and the hearing was signed off by the Judge on Thursday. First of all, I'm guessing that he should get official notification from the court. He forgot to ask as he was rather overwhelmed; he's been representing himself with help from me and we've cracked her solicitor off three times now. Secondly, as he now has 50/50, should he have asked, or should he now ask for 50/50 RESIDENCY. He would like any benefits that he is now due, half Child Benefit, half Family Tax Credits but is unsure if his shared care must be stated as Residency or else he can't claim. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Eddie Riff - 31-Mar-15 @ 8:59 AM
Hello, just wanted to no something. Me and my son son's dad don't live together anymore. I have my court order,my son leaves with me and he has set days and times with his father. Due to me working his father has been having him on one of my set days on the court order.Our order does state extra contact can be done. Well am now pregnant and due to leave soon, his father isn't having none of it saying well its my day with him you agree ect ect. But extra contact doesn't have to mean set for life does it? He is now stating he is taking me to court as am been un fair but he knew it was only while I was working, helping me out and himself to have his son more. Thank you
stace - 30-Mar-15 @ 7:59 PM
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