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Shared Custody of Your Children

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 10 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
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.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Whopper - Your Question:
My ex and I broke up nearly 6 years ago when my son was 1. She lives 60 miles away from me and for this whole time it has been an amicable split. I have him every other weekend and a week in the summer holidays, and a few days over Christmas. Recently though, she has decided she will no longer meet me half way on a Friday night, I work full time and have a loose verbal agreement with my manager that I can leave early on that Friday to get my son for 16:30 even though I don’t finish work until 17:30. Is this just tough luck or is there something I can do?

Our Response:
You don't say why your ex has decided to opt out of this arrangement. If there is a valid reason, for instance; if she has had another child, or if work does not allow, or she no longer has the use of a car, then she can offer a valid reason why and you can perhaps come to an alternative arrangement amicably. Your only other recourse would be to suggest mediation in order to try to resolve the issue via a third party, where you both cannot agree between yourselves.
SeparatedDads - 11-Dec-17 @ 12:08 PM
My ex and I broke up nearly 6 years ago when my son was 1. She lives 60 miles away from me and for this whole time it has been an amicable split. I have him every other weekend and a week in the summer holidays, and a few days over Christmas. Recently though, she has decided she will no longer meet me half way on a Friday night, I work full time and have a loose verbal agreement with my manager that I can leave early on that Friday to get my son for 16:30 even though I don’t finish work until 17:30. Is this just tough luck or is there something I can do?
Whopper - 9-Dec-17 @ 10:14 AM
Gerald - Your Question:
I have a contact order in place, and my two daughters (6 and 3) are now sleeping over. My daughter's have bonded with my current partner and really enjoy her company. The other week my daughter's fell asleep with my partner and rather than disturb them I slept in their bed. We woke in the morning, had breakfast and I then returned them home as per current spec on final court order. The x went berserk when my 6 yr old told her about this and really told her off , and also told my 3 yr old not to sleep with my current partner ever. On the following visit my 6 yr old told us what had happened and was really upset because, as I have said, she is very fond of my current partner. I felt terrible for her. My 6 yr old is also saying she wants to spend half the week with me. My x is local, I am self employed. If I applied to court, could I gain shared custody even if my x refuses because of the unnecessary distress she is putting my daughter through ??

Our Response:
If separated parents have disagreements that they cannot resolve, the next port of call is mediation, please see link here . There are no rules regarding what parents can and cannot do and mediation would have to be considered before any court application would be allowed. Regarding shared care of your child, the courts would not use shared care as a punishment for the resident parent. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. If this situation will not resolve itself, then you may wish to seek some legal advice in order to explore your options.
SeparatedDads - 5-Dec-17 @ 10:32 AM
I have a contact order in place, and my two daughters (6 and 3) are now sleeping over. My daughter's have bonded with my current partner and really enjoy her company. The other week my daughter's fell asleep with my partner and rather than disturb them I slept in their bed. We woke in the morning, had breakfast and I then returned them home as per current spec on final court order. The x went berserk when my 6 yr old told her about this and really told her off , and also told my 3 yr old not to sleep with my current partner ever. On the following visit my 6 yr old told us what had happened and was really upset because, as I have said, she is very fond of my current partner. I felt terrible for her. My 6 yr old is also saying she wants to spend half the week with me. My x is local, I am self employed. If I applied to court, could I gain shared custody even if my x refuses because of the unnecessary distress she is putting my daughter through ??
Gerald - 3-Dec-17 @ 11:12 PM
How do I go about applying for shared custody, or even full custody? My ex has my daughter living with her but makes no effort at all. She ditches my daughter at every opportunity as her new boyfriend “doesn’t like kids”. He’s also a loser who lives on benefits, has been to prison and has a second income selling counterfeit goods on Facebook! He also has 5 kids that he pays no maintenance for. All while my ex is trying to fleece me for as much money as possible. I have my daughter every weekend plus every Wednesday for tea. I buy her whatever she wants and she knows she is an important part of our family and is always included on holidays and family days out. My ex just sees me as a pay cheque as the CSA don’t take into consideration how much money it costs me to earn my wage. I pay £1400 a month childcare for my 2 other children who live with me and also pay £400 a month fuel as a travel a lot with work. CSA just take your top line and deduct from that! I feel I am the better parent for my daughter with the more stable and safe home and wondered how I can challenge her mother for custody?
Sgp - 21-Nov-17 @ 9:44 PM
Rusty - Your Question:
This is a tricky one. I an divorcing my wife and now it's getting a bit nasty and said that she will take my daughter away, this is where it gets tricky my daughter is sixteen and I have said she should make up her own mind and there is no wrong answer, but my ex-wife is saying she has to live with her. Now really tricky my ex-wife is NOT the biological mother. We had IVF treatment and had egg donation. What I want to know is does this affect her rights as a mother or not. She is making it very difficult for me to spend time with our daughter.

Our Response:
If you had IVF (regardless of whether your ex had an egg donation), then your wife is considered the mother by birth and has the same rights as any birth mother. As your daughter is 16, then her opinion will count if the matter was to go to court (if a resolution through mediation fails). In the first instance, if you cannot agree you should try to seek a resolution via mediation. If your daughter wishes to remain with you and your ex is challenging this, then a court will take your daughter's opinion into consideration. However, it does not mean a court would agree with your daughter. Neither would the fact your wife was impanted with someone else's egg be relevant to any court decision. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 13-Nov-17 @ 10:54 AM
Chris- Your Question:
Hi I split with my sons mum 5 years ago up until last year I hadn't seen him for 3 years she made it inpossible now I see him every two weeks which isn't enough. I work 5 days a week and live 20 miles away. Is possible for me to get a court order so I can have my son every single weekend Monday to Friday?

Our Response:
You don't say whether you have a court order in place currently. If you have, then unless circumstances have changed in a significant way that affects the access you have with your child, then it is unlikely a court will allow you to apply. If there is no court order currently in place, then you would have to take the route of mediation to try to organise further access to your child. If mediation fails, then you will be allowed to refer the matter to court. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 13-Nov-17 @ 10:44 AM
This is a tricky one. I an divorcing my wife and now it's getting a bit nasty and said that she will take my daughter away, this is where it gets tricky my daughter is sixteen and I have said she should make up her own mind and there is no wrong answer, but my ex-wife is saying she has to live with her. Now really tricky my ex-wife is NOT the biological mother. We had IVF treatment and had egg donation. What I want to know is does this affect her rights as a mother or not. She is making it very difficult for me to spend time with our daughter.
Rusty - 12-Nov-17 @ 11:19 AM
I ment Friday to Sunday every week
Chris - 12-Nov-17 @ 11:06 AM
Hi I split with my sons mum 5 years ago up until last year I hadn't seen him for 3 years she made it inpossible now I see him every two weeks which isn't enough. I work 5 days a week and live 20 miles away. Is possible for me to get a court order so I can have my son every single weekend Monday to Friday?
Chris - 12-Nov-17 @ 11:05 AM
Mr smith- Your Question:
My ex parter is so selfish with my son I have him every other weekend drops him about half ten and picks him up at 3 on the Sunday I tell her I want him in Friday till Sunday will pick him up on my way home from work no problem but always says no and when it comes to holidays she says no a couple of days is to much for him to be way from his mum now shes having a new baby with an unknown father and I asked about Christmas and she said I will have a new born and my son will be bonding with the new baby so he won't be coming to mine on Boxing Day because of this new baby I will have to go to her house on Christmas Day to see my son open his presents come on really so what about the family I have now that she says my son is not allowed to come to my house he has to stay at my mums because I have a new partner any ideas joint custody this this something I could possibly get ? Please help

Our Response:
Your only option here would be to request mediation (where you cannot agree) and if your ex refuses mediation, then you would have the option to apply to court. It is unlikely you would be granted shared care if you currently only have your son every other weekend. But, it is likely you would be granted an access order, usually every other weekend and one/two nights mid-week. Your ex has no right to dictate whether your current partner is allowed to see your son. However, if your ex will not change her mind, then court becomes the only option. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. But having both parents in your child's life is viewed as important through the courts. Once an access in order is in place, your ex will have to keep to the arrangements. You can also request Xmas arrangements and school holidays.
SeparatedDads - 12-Oct-17 @ 11:42 AM
My ex parter is so selfish with my son I have him every other weekend drops him about half ten and picks him up at 3 on the Sunday I tell her I want him in Friday till Sunday will pick him up on my way home from work no problem but always says no and when it comes to holidays she says no a couple of days is to much for him to be way from his mum now shes having a new baby with an unknown father and I asked about Christmas and she said I will have a new born and my son will be bonding with the new baby so he won't be coming to mine on Boxing Day because of this new baby I will have to go to her house on Christmas Day to see my son open his presents come on really so what about the family I have now that she says my son is not allowed to come to my house he has to stay at my mums because I have a new partner any ideas joint custody this this something I could possibly get ? Please help
Mr smith - 10-Oct-17 @ 6:43 PM
Patsy - Your Question:
My ex partner refuses to help out with childcare with our son at the weekends so that I am able to work. Our son lives with me full time and only sees his dad for half a day on the Saturday but he refuses to have him for any longer so that I am able to keep my job going at the weekends. Can I seek legal advice any this?

Our Response:
It is highly unlikely that a court would attempt to force your ex to have your child more than he agrees to.
SeparatedDads - 10-Oct-17 @ 11:14 AM
My ex partner refuses to help out with childcare with our son at the weekends so that I am able to work. Our son lives with me full time and only sees his dad for half a day on the Saturday but he refuses to have him for any longer so that I am able to keep my job going at the weekends. Can I seek legal advice any this?
Patsy - 9-Oct-17 @ 8:13 AM
bellz - Your Question:
My daughter is 10 months old I'm I eligible for Shared Residence Order (SRO)

Our Response:
Unless you can agree with your ex, or through mediation, only a court can issue this.
SeparatedDads - 6-Oct-17 @ 2:37 PM
Paul - Your Question:
Hi, I seperated from my child's partner approx 3 years ago and since that point we've had a set routine of when he stays with which parent. I have him overnight 3 days a week and then for tea on one of the nights that he doesn't stay.All of a sudden she's decided to change his routine and saying I can only have him 2 nights a week and for tea one other night.Can she do this? What's to stop me saying the same things to her? I don't get where I stand on the matter legally

Our Response:
The main things is to try to find out why your ex has changed your previous agreement. If you wish to challenge her reasoning and you can no longer mutually agree, then suggesting mediation would be your next option. Mediation takes place in front of a neutral third party. The mediator has no pre-conceptions and will not force you to make an agreement. They will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and helping you reach a decision that you are ready to agree with.It is a formal negotiation and courts can accept the agreement of the mediation instead of having to go through the court process, although it is subject to final court approval. Court is the next option to consider, if your ex does not have a justifiable reason why she has changed these dates. The thing is to be fair but firm and let your ex know that, you will take the matter further.
SeparatedDads - 6-Oct-17 @ 11:27 AM
Hi, I seperated from my child's partner approx 3 years ago and since that point we've had a set routine of when he stays with which parent. I have him overnight 3 days a week and then for tea on one of the nights that he doesn't stay. All of a sudden she's decided to change his routine and saying I can only have him 2 nights a week and for tea one other night. Can she do this? What's to stop me saying the same things to her? I don't get where I stand on the matter legally
Paul - 5-Oct-17 @ 6:36 PM
I have my young children 137 nights a year and take them to Nursery every week day morning and am interested in applying for shared custody as the children's mother now has a boyfriend who I suspect she'll move away to live with. I have a really good relationship with my children and would be devastated not to be involved day to day in their lives. Even though the children are almost 2 and 3 with us having compromised and persisted with an arrangement, can I just apply for joint /shared custody? Also, will joint/shared custody prevent the mother being able to just uproot the children from where they are being brought up with family, nursery and myself?
Concerned Father - 3-Oct-17 @ 11:04 PM
my daughter is 10 months old I'm i eligible for Shared Residence Order (SRO)
bellz - 3-Oct-17 @ 3:35 PM
Debs- Your Question:
My son and his ex went to court over their daughter , it was agreed at court that she lives with the mother 4 days a week and my son the other 3.They got back together and now after 3 years it’s not working too well( and they moved to Spain 2 years ago) Does it mean that the english court order still stands after 4 yrs and being back together 3 and in Spain for 2.As my son wants to have her full time if he can

Our Response:
Your son and his ex can agree to uphold the original order. However, should either parent renage on it, as they are both living in Spain there is nothing to enforce the order as they are no longer living under English family law.
SeparatedDads - 3-Oct-17 @ 2:51 PM
My son and his ex went to court over their daughter , it was agreed at court that she lives with the mother 4 days a week and my son the other 3 . They got back together and now after 3 years it’s not working too well( and they moved to Spain 2 years ago) Does it mean that the english court order still stands after 4 yrs and being back together 3 and in Spain for 2 . As my son wants to have her full time if he can
Debs - 29-Sep-17 @ 3:16 PM
jem - Your Question:
Hi I'm enquiring about arrangement myslef and my partner have with his ex over their son. They have been split up over 9 years now. We have been together for 8. We have my stepson Monday Wednesday and every other weekend all weekend. He spends 70% of all holidays at ours as both my partner and his ex works so muy stepson stays with me. We keep asking her to agree to a shared custody letter or an offical arrangement to be out in to place but she refuses every time. My partner pays out for half the uniform half the school trips and she still wants more. We have looked into if he should pay child support. but we've been told no as we do have him more than she does. She still tried to call the shord, and change the days as she says there's nothing in place, and she's my strpsons main parent. so she can when ever he's ill its is that look after him. Its even been suggested that she signs over the child benifit form to confirm he state with us as its a legal document but she said no as shell lose her money we told her to keep it in her account or we'll give her them money back each month but she refuses what shall we do my partner has tried to be amicable for and not be to pushy on the subject but it is effecting our lives so much she is constantly changing days and giving him ultimatums saying she has the rights what do we do

Our Response:
Having your step-son overnight Monday, Wednesday and every other weekend doesn't equate to shared-care. Child maintenance payments are based purely on overnight stays. You can calculate how much your partner should be paying due to the amount of overnight stays here. I'm not sure why your partner is insisting on a shared-care agreement, you'd have to explain further. If it is because his ex is unreliable when making arrangements, then mediation may be the solution here. If mediation fails, then your partner would have the option to apply to court.
SeparatedDads - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:19 PM
Hi I'm enquiring about arrangement myslef and my partner have with his ex over their son. They have been split up over 9 years now. We have been together for 8. We have my stepson Monday Wednesday and every other weekend all weekend. He spends 70% of all holidays at ours as both my partner and his ex works so muy stepson stays with me. We keep asking her to agree to a shared custody letter or an offical arrangement to be out in to place but she refuses every time. My partner pays out for half the uniform half the school trips and she still wants more. We have looked into if he should pay child support. but we've been told no as we do have him more than she does. She still tried to call the shord, and change the days as she says there's nothing in place, and she's my strpsons main parent. so she can when ever he's ill its is that look after him. Its even been suggested that she signs over the child benifit form to confirm he state with us as its a legal document but she said no as shell lose her money we told her to keep it in her account or we'll give her them money back each month but she refuses what shall we do my partner has tried to be amicable for and not be to pushy on the subject but it is effecting our lives so much she is constantly changing days and giving him ultimatums saying she has the rights what do we do
jem - 28-Sep-17 @ 11:32 AM
HELP! we have just separated and she wants full custody of our 12 year old daughter.her statement is full of lies and exaggerated truths. Does custody mean she can stop me from seeing my daughter if she wants? Do I at this point argue to see her at regular intervals? Or does this not make a difference to me seeing her? Should I try to get joint custody?
Garo - 22-Sep-17 @ 8:09 AM
Mark - Your Question:
Hi.I've been split up seven years from my ex and have paid monthly towards my 2 girls , 8-and 12 , I also help pay dinner money , and dance and drama and school uniforms , I also pick my kids up from school when I'm on 6-2 and night shift , and I'll take my kids to school if I I'm on 2-10 , I also have my kids 2-3 nights a week ,everything was going fine until last week when she started demanding more money or she would go csa , I'm really confused , I do as much as I can and pay as much as I can , I drive every we're to collect them or take them home , my new partner says I need to stand up to my self with her , but I fear I'll lose all the contact I have with my girls , any ideas ?

Our Response:
There are two kinds of child maintenance arrangements; a family-based arrangement where you agree between you what you should pay, or the resident parent can apply via CMS. You can see how much you should be paying via the link here. If you pay child maintenance via CMS, then you do not (unless voluntarily) have to pay anything more. Some non-resident parents find they have been paying more via the family-based arrangement. Anyhow, it acts as a good benchmark regarding what you should be paying as a percentage of your wages. Paying child maintenance via CMS doesn't mean contact will be restricted as a result, it just means you pay the money directly to your ex instead of through negotiation.
SeparatedDads - 19-Sep-17 @ 12:27 PM
Roman - Your Question:
I split with my ex ten months ago I had a few things to sort out after we split so I was in a position to fight for access I'm now ready. My son was born in 2014 after the law changed so that if the dad was on b.c. both perants have the same rights is this true as iv still got to go through this grilling prosses and want to no wot to expect

Our Response:
The forum may be of use to you (you can access this at the bottom of the page). Reading all the Separated Dads pages will also help (better than I could sum up in a few sentences). However, if you are fighting for shared care of your son and you haven't seen him for 10 months, then it is unlikely you will be awarded shared care. Shared care is usually awarded to dads who have previously equally shared the upbringing of their children on a day-to-day basis and where no one parent is essentially the primary carer. So, you may need some extra professional advice if you are thinking of fighting for shared care where you have had little involvement in your child's life for a while. However, before the matter goes to court, the court will have expected you to have suggested and/or attended mediation in order to try to resolve your issues out of court, before it will allow you to apply. Court is seen only as the last resort where the mediation process has failed.
SeparatedDads - 19-Sep-17 @ 12:19 PM
I split with my ex ten months ago I had a few things to sort out after we split so I was in a position to fight for access I'm now ready. My son was born in 2014 after the law changed so that if the dad was on b.c. both perants have the same rights is this true as iv still got to go through this grilling prosses and want to no wot to expect
Roman - 19-Sep-17 @ 3:17 AM
Hi ...I've been split up seven years from my ex and have paid monthly towards my 2 girls , 8-and 12, I also help pay dinner money , and dance and drama and school uniforms , I also pick my kids up from school when I'm on 6-2 and night shift , and I'll take my kids to school if I I'm on 2-10 , I also have my kids 2-3 nights a week ,everything was going fine until last week when she started demanding more money or she would go csa , I'm really confused , I do as much as I can and pay as much as I can , I drive every we're to collect them or take them home , my new partner says I need to stand up to my self with her , but I fear I'll lose all the contact I have with my girls , any ideas ?
Mark - 19-Sep-17 @ 1:59 AM
20160o - Your Question:
Just wondering if I could have some help. I know someone who has a court order in place as ex wouldn't allow them to see their child. The ex gets CMS off this man, however looking at his court order I noticed it stated that their child lives with both parents and didn't say that the mother was resident parent and father was not. Just wondering if this has any effect on cms. It states that the child lives with both parents. Father has child two nights because the mother told the court she didn't want 50/50 split as the child was young. Court agreed. Would go back to get 50/50 now child is older however just don't have the money at the moment. My question is if the court order states that the child lives with both parents. It even says child 'lives with the father Monday 9am until Wednesday 7pm' child 'lives with mother Wednesday 7pm until Monday 9am '

Our Response:
Even if the court says the child lives with both parents, by the fact the mother has the child five nights per week opposed to the father having the child two nights means one parent has the child more. If your friend wished to apply for official shared care and the mother refused, he would have to refer the matter back to court. If your friend is on a low income, he may get help with his court fees, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 15-Sep-17 @ 2:14 PM
sam - Your Question:
I have two daughters 15 and 12. I would like to know the law regarding full joint custody and maintaintainance.sam

Our Response:
There are no rules regarding joint custody, or residency. Much depends upon whether you and your ex can come to an agreement between you. If you cannot, then you would have to explore mediation as a way of trying to resolve living/access arrangements. You can see how much maintenance you may be paying (if you are the non-resident parent), via the CMS link here.
SeparatedDads - 15-Sep-17 @ 12:59 PM
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