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Shared Custody of Your Children

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 Jun 2016 | 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi my partner got regular contact through courts when his daughter was a baby, now she is 6 and the mother is always trying to get her way with changing arrangements etc, i advised him to see about back to court to sort things again if she keeps twisting and turning things to her benefit, but she is now saying that he is required to have her half of the school holidays is this likely to be true? Thanks.
Stacey - 25-Jun-16 @ 2:05 PM
rr - Your Question:
OK so I have been with my husband for 7 yrs and we have his daughter complete 50/50 we pay for everything on our side and take her on 3 holidays a year (her mum has took her on about 2 in those 7yrs ) we still have to pay CSA. my step daughter has a disability and her mum gets all the money for this along with all benefits. We have just received a letter that the CSA is now changing and I noticed there is a section regarding going to court about the payments.if we went to court to get our 50/50 care registered where does this leave us money wise? we have her 4 days then her mum 4 days and it roles like that throughout the year so full shared care!! it annoys me that her mum receives everything from us and benefits and DLA yet we provide a lot more for her than she does!!

Our Response:
You would be advised to seek legal advice regarding this and whether you have a case to request 50/50 shared care. The court will usually only offer a shared care arrnagement if both sets of parents agree - but you may have a case if you are already co-parenting.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jun-16 @ 2:24 PM
triker- Your Question:
Hi I have been separated from my ex wife over 3 years and recently divorced. I have shared custody agreement arranged verbally between my ex and myself. My ex receives the child maintenance and I have been paying her monthly amount since we separated (amount suggested by CSA through telephone call) for my two children aged 12yrs and 13yrs. I have them 3 -4 days a week, 4 weekends away a year, and normal 2 weeks holiday each year. Although receiving maintenance from me each month, she constantly asking me to pay for clothes, school trips, plus £70 a month for dinner money, haircuts, trainers and anything else. When the children were much younger, I continued to pay for pension, and she used the time to complete further education courses while I looked after the children, so she could get a better job when children started school, which she did.If I'm paying for shared costs for the children's clothes and everything else, what I'm I paying maintenance for? The only difference I can see if that my ex is a female, so she benefits from this gender. The children a more or less at both parents homes equally. So can I suddenly suggest I will receive maintenance for the children from her and child benefit.I feel this is very wrong, I would never see my children go without, but I hate the thought my ex sitting comfortable and me being overdrawn every month. the system is wrong and very one sided.

Our Response:
You do not have to pay above and beyond what the CSA/CMS has specified. Anything you pay for over this agreed amount is at your own discretion. You can see how much you should be paying via the CMS link here.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jun-16 @ 11:41 AM
OK so I have been with my husband for 7 yrs and we have his daughter complete 50/50 we pay for everything on our side and take her on 3 holidays a year (her mum has took her on about 2 in those 7yrs ) we still have to pay CSA. my step daughter has a disability and her mum gets all the money for this along with all benefits. We have just received a letter that the CSA is now changing and I noticed there is a section regarding going to court about the payments.......if we went to court to get our 50/50 care registered where does this leave us money wise?we have her 4 days then her mum 4 days and it roles like that throughout the year so full shared care!! it annoys me that her mum receives everything from us and benefits and DLA yet we provide a lot more for her than she does!!
rr - 22-Jun-16 @ 9:51 PM
Hi I have been separated from my ex wife over 3 years and recently divorced. I have shared custody agreement arranged verbally between my ex and myself. My ex receives the child maintenance and I have been paying her monthly amount since we separated (amount suggested by CSA through telephone call) for my two children aged 12yrs and 13yrs. I have them 3 -4 days a week, 4 weekends away a year, and normal 2 weeks holiday each year. Although receiving maintenance from me each month, she constantly asking me to pay for clothes, school trips, plus £70 a month for dinner money, haircuts, trainers and anything else. When the children were much younger, I continued to pay for pension, and she used the time to complete further education courses while I looked after the children, so she could get a better job when children started school, which she did. If I'm paying for shared costs for the children's clothes and everything else, what i'm I paying maintenance for? The only difference I can see if that my ex is a female, so she benefits from this gender. The children a more or less at both parents homes equally. So can I suddenly suggest I will receive maintenance for the children from her and child benefit. I feel this is very wrong, I would never see my children go without, but I hate the thought my ex sitting comfortable and me being overdrawn every month. the system is wrong and very one sided.
triker - 22-Jun-16 @ 4:04 PM
Hotdog - Your Question:
My wife and I seperated. I work shifts so I have our two kids for 3/4 nights out of 8. She still wants £400 pm plus split all other kids bills ie.clothes.after school clubs.trips. We earn the same amount. Plus I work over 100 miles away. Is this right?

Our Response:
Much depends on whether you are seen to have shared-care of your children, or whether you are classed as the non-resident parent. You can see how much you should be paying by the CMS calculator here, or you can ring the CMS for some direct, free advice. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 20-Jun-16 @ 11:27 AM
My wife and I seperated. I work shifts so I have our two kids for 3/4 nights out of 8. She still wants £400 pm plus split all other kids bills ie..clothes..after school clubs...trips. We earn the same amount. Plus I work over 100 miles away. Is this right?
Hotdog - 19-Jun-16 @ 10:02 AM
Since my wife was unfaithful 8 years ago we split and I now live over 40 miles away however we have shared custody (no residency order in place) I alone have paid the full travel costs for my children in the past 8 years totally over £12,800. My ex has contributed £10 in all this time. Unfortunately after a brain operation last year I an unable to work for the next 2 years so money is tight I have asked my ex to contribute 50/50 to the cost with no joy. However I was speaking to a family friend the other day who works in familt law and she said that as no residency order is in place only the parent wishing to see the children is liable for the costs "to see them" hence me when I collect them. BUT my ex on the return journey as then it would be her that wants to see the children and not me as they will already be in my presence. I do know that if I chose no to return them there is legally nothing she could do as legally they can reside at either mine or her property due to lack of residency order. I was wondering in a nutshell does she legally have to contribute or should I just stop returning them and that way it will force her to collect them as financially it isn't plausible anymore!
Olly - 15-Jun-16 @ 8:46 PM
James - Your Question:
Hi I have joint custody of my daughter aged 3 I have her more than 50% and my ex wanted to move over 2 hours away and take her, which means taking her away from all my family all her family and out of nursery and swimming lessons everything, what Can I do about this?

Our Response:
If you can't agree between you and your ex and you think your ex may take your daughter away without your consent, then you can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. A PSO is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. However, there is no guarantee you would be granted this order, as the courts would decide on what it thinks is in the best interests of your child. Have you thought about discussing this directly with your ex and relaying your feelings to her? If she will not take your opinion on board, then another option which you may wish to explore prior to a court order is mediation, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here. I hope these suggestions help.
SeparatedDads - 15-Jun-16 @ 10:48 AM
questionmark - Your Question:
Am I legally allowed to change access days (tea time visits) without my ex's consent? She goes twice a week and it's making her tired at school. She lives with me and sees him on alternate weekends and twice a week for tea.

Our Response:
If there is a court order then unless you both agree to the changes, then no you cannot change the terms. If you have a family-based shared care arrangement then it is better that any changes are negotiated first, but there is nothing stopping you from making changes if you feel they are necessary. However, if you restrict access then your ex's option would be to take the matter to court.
SeparatedDads - 14-Jun-16 @ 12:54 PM
Hi I have joint custody of my daughter aged 3 I have her more than 50% and my ex wanted to move over 2 hours away and take her, which means taking her away from all my family all her family and out of nursery and swimming lessons everything, what Can I do about this?
James - 14-Jun-16 @ 11:32 AM
Am I legally allowed to change access days (tea time visits) without my ex's consent? She goes twice a week and it's making her tired at school. She lives with me and sees him on alternate weekends and twice a week for tea.
questionmark - 13-Jun-16 @ 5:20 PM
My partner and I are in the throes of a separation which is proving a bit difficult for me... If I'm taking medication which helps with my current anxiety, will that work against me in any custody claims? Also, My partner has another relationship which is ongoing, both her and her "friend" are high earners, will I still be expected to financially contribute to our children?
Mart - 12-Jun-16 @ 4:17 PM
Now I received 50 50 joint custody thru our local court house....during the upcoming months..the mom started act weird...she was seen butt naked at 330 in the morning screaming I'm god...she began to here voices....well I notified cps and our local sheriffs.... Now isn't it only right for me to get my kids after the removal...because of me having joint custody and me not living in the home where they were renoved
thablaclghost - 12-Jun-16 @ 3:59 PM
Hi I recently split from my girlfriend we have daughter we decide to share 50/50 time with her .do I intaitel to any financial support all all of it will go to my ex girlfriend
Ndw - 10-Jun-16 @ 10:24 PM
Jon - Your Question:
Hi I separated from my wife over 11 months ago, I have a 3 year old daughter with her. Who I see every weekend and all school holidays. My daughter has said me and my wife, she wanted to be with Daddy. And has not got a good attachment her mother. And has a strong attachment to me And wife has a history of going out and drinking excessively and get her friend to baby sit or letting her parents see to my child when her mum is a alcoholic. I do have the money to divorce my wife or fight for full custody of my daughter. Is there any other way to get full custody of my daughter on grounds of attachment. As I am worried about my daughter's well doing emotional well-being and as a single father I feel powerless.

Our Response:
You would have to take the matter to court in order to apply for custody. But please be aware that it is rare that a court will take a child from one parent and hand the child to another unless absolutely necessary. If your ex has a history of alcoholism which proves she is unable or unwilling to care properly for your daughter then you may have a case, in which case you can self-litigate, see link: here. However, it is advisable to seek some legal advice to help you assess your options.
SeparatedDads - 10-Jun-16 @ 2:46 PM
ConcernedStepmum - Your Question:
My husband wishes to seek 50/50 access of his son with his ex partner as his son (my stepson) is having a lot of issues at school surrounding knowing where he fits in and something his therapist refers to as his 'safe place'. We currently have him over night 2 nights a week, 1 week day and 1 weekend. He has shown violent tendencys towards his mother for the past year (physically attacking her and hitting her along with verbal abuse), fortunately we haven't experienced any such behaviour when he is at ours. We live within a 5 minute drive and would be able to take him to the same school and accommodate him seeing the same friends etc. He is 8 and has expressed himself the wish to stay at ours more and make it 'fair' as he says himself. The family dynamics of both homes are the same (1 parent 1 step parent and a younger brother) in both homes. My husband and myself cannot think of any negatives to changing his living arrangements to a 50/50 arrangement. However we know we will face resistance from his mother. If we were to take this to court does anyone have any experience of a similar situation where an order has been granted in the fathers favour? Just to add a little background info my husband has previously taken his ex to court to get a court order put in place because she stopped access for no reason when their son was a few months old. At that time my husband was still living at home with his parents and a 50/50 order wasn't an option. The original order is no longer followed as relationships have became more amicable and working patterns have changed.

Our Response:
Shared-care orders are rarely awarded in court unless both parents agree. It is also unlikely a court would change a living arrangement unless absolutely necessary. The court will always opt for what it thinks is in the best interests of the child and unless there is a good reason to change your step-son's living arrangements it is likely to be disregarded. However, if he is having psychological issues then it may be worth seeking some legal advice to explore whether you have any options.
SeparatedDads - 7-Jun-16 @ 2:38 PM
My husband wishes to seek 50/50 access of his son with his ex partner as his son (my stepson) is having a lot of issues at school surrounding knowing where he fits in and something his therapist refers to as his 'safe place'. We currently have him over night 2 nights a week, 1 week day and 1 weekend. He has shown violent tendencys towards his mother for the past year (physically attacking her and hitting her along with verbal abuse), fortunately we haven't experienced any such behaviour when he is at ours. We live within a 5 minute drive and would be able to take him to the same school and accommodate him seeing the same friends etc. He is 8 and has expressed himself the wish to stay at ours more and make it 'fair' as he says himself. The family dynamics of both homes are the same (1 parent 1 step parent and a younger brother) in both homes. My husband and myself cannot think of any negatives to changing his living arrangements to a 50/50 arrangement. However we know we will face resistance from his mother. If we were to take this to court does anyone have any experience of a similar situation where an order has been granted in the fathers favour? Just to add a little background info my husband has previously taken his ex to court to get a court order put in place because she stopped access for no reason when their son was a few months old. At that time my husband was still living at home with his parents and a 50/50 order wasn't an option. The original order is no longer followed as relationships have became more amicable and working patterns have changed.
ConcernedStepmum - 6-Jun-16 @ 11:06 PM
Hi I separated from my wife over 11 months ago, I have a 3 year old daughter with her. Who I see every weekend and all school holidays. My daughter has said me and my wife, she wanted to be with Daddy. And has not got a good attachment her mother.And has a strong attachment to me And wife has a history of going out and drinking excessively and get her friend to baby sit or letting her parents see to my child when her mum is a alcoholic. I do have the money to divorce my wife or fight for full custody of my daughter. Is there any other way to get full custody of my daughteron grounds of attachment. As I am worried about my daughter's well doing emotional well-being and as a single father I feel powerless.
Jon - 4-Jun-16 @ 9:34 PM
LL - Your Question:
Hi I offered my ex partner shared custody 12 months ago when we split and he denied it through solicitors saying it was no way feasible. He's since moved in with his partner but work commitments are still the same. He's now requesting 4 days a week to the stage I feel he's bullying me into agreeing. He's had continuous over night weekend contact since the split and we live a 30 minute drive apart. I have shared xmas birthdays always seen myself to be fair. Will the courts grant him 4 days as I've received a solicitor letter with his requests but I've denied any change to the current arrangement. Child is 17months old and in a fantastic routine along with her 8 year old sister from a previous relationship.Thankyou

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot predict whether the court will grant your ex more access. However, if you are considered the primary carer and your ex the non-resident parent, it is unlikely that the court will offer your ex more care than you, if their routine would be compromised as a result. The court will always decide upon what is in the best interests of your children and if the access you are offering is already fair then I can't see the court would see any reason to change this.
SeparatedDads - 2-Jun-16 @ 2:23 PM
Hi i offered my ex partner shared custody 12 months ago when we split and he denied it through solicitors saying it was no way feasible. He's since moved in with his partner but work commitments are still the same. He's now requesting 4 days a week to the stage I feel he's bullying me into agreeing. He's had continuous over night weekend contact since the split and we live a 30 minute drive apart. I have shared xmas birthdays always seen myself to be fair. Will the courts grant him 4 days as I've received a solicitor letter with his requests but I've denied any change to the current arrangement. Child is 17months old and in a fantastic routine along with her 8 year old sister from a previous relationship. Thankyou
LL - 1-Jun-16 @ 11:44 PM
Venus12 - Your Question:
Hi, I'm the breadwinner and the primary carer (kids live with me, husband moved out). While I make more money, I'm still spending my whole paycheck on rent and expenses every month so have nothing left over and wish he was able to help more than he does. He currently has no money for a place where the children can spend the night, but is still saying he wants shared custody. Based on his past disdain for parenthood, I suspect his motive is purely because he wants to get the bulk of our assets in financial settlement, claiming he needs a home big enough to house them. Is that a sound argument? They are very young, so while I am happy for them to see their father, I don't think they should have two homes during the week as he suggests when they're just toddlers.

Our Response:
Shared care or joint custody is usually agreed by the parents and not commonly issued through the courts as one parent is usually considered the primary carer and the other the non-resident parent with access. If you are currently the primary carer, you are under no obligation to change this. Your ex may wish to take the matter to court if you don't agree, but if you are open with the access arrangements then the court is unlikely to move the arrangement to shared care, especially if he does not have the means to house your children.
SeparatedDads - 1-Jun-16 @ 11:17 AM
Hi, I'm the breadwinner and the primary carer (kids live with me, husband moved out).While I make more money, I'm still spending my whole paycheck on rent and expenses every month so have nothing left over and wish he was able to help more than he does.He currently has no money for a place where the children can spend the night, but is still saying he wants shared custody. Based on his past disdain for parenthood, I suspect his motive is purely because he wants to get the bulk of our assets in financial settlement, claiming he needs a home big enough to house them. Is that a sound argument? They are very young, so while I am happy for them to see their father, I don't think they should have two homes during the week as he suggests when they're just toddlers.
Venus12 - 31-May-16 @ 2:03 PM
Mackenzie - Your Question:
My husband and I are recently separated, and we are still technically living together in the family home. He stays most of the week in a house across the road but doesn't want to make it official - i.e. tell the council re council tax, or hmrc re tax credits in case of any potential battle in the future about child custody or access. I don't see us ever not being able to be reasonable with eachother about the kids, but I understand his concerns. Is there anything legally that we could do to protect his rights to the kids without going through a formal separation agreement? Are his concerns founded - that he would lose some parental rights if he officially took up residence in another house? Although he wouldn't be able to take on 50% of the child care, he probably could manage 30%, but we would both prefer this to be a flexible arrangement as possible, so that when he has more time off work he can see them more, and visa versa. Thanks

Our Response:
Much depends upon your husband's situation and whether he is working or not and what his living situations are (whether he is living alone or with others) which makes this difficult to advise on. You can agree to shared-care as laid out in the article and you can agree finances etc through a family-based arrangement. However, we cannot advise on how you can best take advantage of the situation with regards to more formal arrangements such as tax credits, council tax etc as these are changes you are legally obliged to inform the various institutions about. I have given you a link to the Money Advice Service here which may help a little more.
SeparatedDads - 26-May-16 @ 10:30 AM
Spider Rob - Your Question:
My ex and I have decided to call it a day we have also agreed on 50/50 custody the only thing is would I be able to get any financial support I don't earn alot but I do work I've never made any sort of claim before so no idea where to start any help would be much appreciated thanks

Our Response:
When you have 50/50 shared-care of your child, then child maintenance is usually not paid, unless one parent is made the primary carer and has the child more evenings than the non-resident parent. With regards to other benefits such as child tax credits, you can see what you may be able to claim via the site Entitled To here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 25-May-16 @ 12:55 PM
VljA - Your Question:
Hello, My ex is refusing my 5 year old daughter go and see her grandparents with me and my partner. My daughter is staying with me every weekend and she would like to go and see them. They live abroad. There is no way to discuss anything with my ex - only way how I can see my daughter is to always pick her up from her flat and bring her back, there is no mutual agreement, there is only her way or no way. This is bringing tension to all relationships. Is there anything what I can do ?

Our Response:
You would have to apply for a Specific Issue Order, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 25-May-16 @ 12:46 PM
My husband and I are recently separated, and we are still technically living together in the family home. He stays most of the week in a house across the road but doesn't want to make it official - i.e. tell the council re council tax, or hmrc re tax credits in case of any potential battle in the future about child custody or access. I don't see us ever not being able to be reasonable with eachother about the kids, but I understand his concerns. Is there anything legally that we could do to protect his rights to the kids without going through a formal separation agreement? Are his concerns founded - that he would lose some parental rights if he officially took up residence in another house? Although he wouldn't be able to take on 50% of the child care, he probably could manage 30%, but we would both prefer this to be a flexible arrangement as possible, so that when he has more time off work he can see them more, and visa versa. Thanks
Mackenzie - 25-May-16 @ 10:00 AM
My ex and I have decided to call it a day we have also agreed on 50/50 custody the only thing is would I be able to get any financial support I don't earn alot but I do work I've never made any sort of claim before so no idea where to start any help would be much appreciated thanks
Spider Rob - 24-May-16 @ 8:31 PM
Hello, My ex is refusing my 5 year old daughter go and see her grandparents with me and my partner. My daughter is staying with me every weekend and she would like to go and see them. They live abroad. There is no way to discuss anything with my ex - only way how I can see my daughter is to always pick her up from her flat and bring her back, there is no mutual agreement, there is only her way or no way. This is bringing tension to all relationships. Is there anything what I can do ?
VljA - 24-May-16 @ 7:45 PM
Rachy - Your Question:
My ex partner pays csa every month. We have a 3 year old who for the past twelve months has been in nursery full time so I can go out to work which I have paid for. I am going to be moving in with my partner and have asked him to help out having half and half responsibility for our daughter. I'm not moving much further than I am now he can easily get access to his daughter and have offered him shared custody. He hasn't agreed and wants to keep it to having her 4 days a month which I don't think is fair considering I have paid for her nursery alone for the past twelve months. Where do I stand with this?

Our Response:
I'm afraid this is something you will have to negotiate between you. As your ex pays CSA/CMS he is only liable to pay this amount and no more unless he agrees. I can only suggest you seek legal advice if you wish for your ex to take more responsibility of your child.
SeparatedDads - 23-May-16 @ 2:21 PM
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