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Shared Custody of Your Children

Author: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 February 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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@babyduesoon - I am sorry to hear that things haven't worked out. But if you look at a few of our other Separated Dads articles, it should tell you the best way to go about obtaining access. First of all when the baby is born you can apply for parental responsibility, see link hereand you can at the same time apply for contact. See article: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, link here. As far as representing yourself there are a lot of fathers now doing so with a good amount of success, see link here. You may also find our Separated Dads Facebook page useful for support through this difficult time. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 26-Feb-15 @ 12:56 PM
@barb - unfortunately things said in the heat of the moment can often have long term effects which it obviously has in your son's case. Likewise it would have been obviously distressing for the child's mother to hear this and understandable that she has gone on the defensive. I don't understand why he has been denied access under supervision though - as it is not like he's a threat. I can only recommend he keeps trying. He will need to prove himself through the courts first and unfortunately it may take some time. Unfortunately this has repercussions on you too. But I don't think grandparents have much in the way of legal rights, although some are now taking it to court, so it may be worth trying.I hope at some point this turns around for you. I know there is the Grandparents Association that offers support in issues like this, you may want to try there.
MIke - 25-Feb-15 @ 1:04 PM
@danny191176 - you can apply for a Prohibited Steps order through the courts on the basis that it will disrupt the relationship between you and your daughter. A Prohibited Steps Order (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. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their children. I hope this helps and good luck.
SeparatedDads - 25-Feb-15 @ 12:53 PM
Hi, I'm new to all of this but hope this will help!! My baby is due the first week march 2015 but my ex partner normally gives birth approx 2 weeks before there due date. Communication between us has broken down and she wont reply to my messages, I recently asked how baby is but she not refusing to acknowledge me. Throughout pregnancy I was toldI cant go to scans, midwife appointments. However I wasn't allowed to attend some ultrasound scans and some midwife appointments, I have been told that my name would not be on the birth certificate and I will be a part time father and I wont be told when my baby is born.This is my first child and I want to be part of there life and do anything possible. Im wishing to have a double barreled surname as want to make sure my child knows who his father is unlike her previous children. Because baby is due soon and communication has stopped im seeking advice. Solicitors fees can be very expensive and would rather represent myself if i can but if needed i will approach a solicitor. I have some questions that hopefully can help me 1. How can I find out if baby born if mother is refusing to contact me 2. Once my child is registered with a forename can this be changed 3. How will I obtain access to see my child 4. At what age would I be allowed to see my child on 1-2-1 basis 5.I don't want my child used as a weapon and would like agreements set in place such as access and living arrangements. 6. Is there any templates for letters i can use to help me communicate with my ex or draft legal letters for access Hope everything will get sorted for everyone but as i know these situations can be emotional for all and the law is more on the mothers side that fathers.
babyduesoon - 24-Feb-15 @ 3:18 PM
I am the grandma in all of this.My son who does not deny he was out of order, got blind drunk induced by circumstances and threatened to kill his partner and his child, awakening in a cell, he has and would not ever harm his child and upto thenlooked after her on his own in between his and partners work shifts he has been denied access to hischild who he loves very much, the partner is also a drinker.He has a probation office and goes voluntarily to AAand has stopped smoking since this happened in November 2014.he was left with debts and the clearing out of his home they shared without any help from her but can not get that hepays his child maintenance on time but in every way he has been denied access from his partner.we have asked he has access under supervisionbut that has been denied.I have lost my grandchild and we are trying to find a way financial to help him as legal aid has been denied, we have filled in every conceivable formcan you advise us we are desperate
barb - 23-Feb-15 @ 3:11 PM
i had a baby from a one nite stand, i went to the birth got my name on the birth certifcate, and at 6 weeks old my ex stopped contact cause she got a new fella, so i went to court got a court order, that breeched then got one with a warning, and finally in march 2013 got a shared residence order, where i have my son wed to fri and fri to sun, so for almost 2 years this has stuck to the order and i also have extra days in holidays and alternate bdays and xmas. yesterday my ex told me she is thinking of moving to scotland from yorkshire and i would only see my son every other weekend instead of fri 12pm til sun 5pm, to fri 7-8pm to sun 3 pm. i would not see him on any birthdays that fall mon to thursday as he will be in school.can she legally move and reduce my contact overnight stays on avergee i would lose about 40-50 extra contact nights. i have never missed contact and if for ever i could not make a day, either the weeks before or after i would of had extra days as to not miss out.any suggestions would be appreciated
danny191176 - 23-Feb-15 @ 2:48 PM
@klv- there are things he can do. In the first instance he should read our partner article When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, link here. If he can't afford the legal fees he can also self-litigate, see link Legal Aid Withdrawal: How to Represent Yourself, link here. This method is proving successful for fathers who can call in help from a McKenzie Friend. Also our Separated Dads Facebook page offers lots of support and advice from fathers who have been through very similar issues. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 20-Feb-15 @ 2:39 PM
My partner has a son with his ex, she.got pregnant on purpose after a few dates, as she is on the dole and this afforded her a new bigger council house. She had never wanted him to have anything to do with his son and only out his name on the birth certificate so she could claim child maintenance. She refuses to have any contact let alone share custody and even a court order is impossible as she just accuses him of everything under the sun. Courts aren't interested in the truth and it would cost him thousands to prove her wrong. So he us stuck, cannot see a son he wants contact with and because of this has to pay massive amounts of maintenance. No justice for fathers.
klv - 19-Feb-15 @ 8:49 PM
@G - it depends how your ex wants to play it. If she receives child benefit then she is considered the main carer, which means should she wish, she could claim child support. However, the CMS would financially lessen the payments for each day you have your children over. Or you can just split the financial care between you and you don't pay maintenance. Should you wish there is no reason that you can't get something drawn up by a solicitor, in order to give you both peace of mind.
Libby - 19-Feb-15 @ 3:07 PM
Hi All, a couple of questions. I would be most grateful for some advice. 1. Myself and my wife have split and the house is currenly on the market. We have agreed that we would have joint custody (4 days with her then 4 with me) this is currently only a verbal agreement however I wondered if there is a contract or something similar we can both sign (just in case!) I do not want to go down the court/ lawyer route but do want to protect myself. 2. How does the CSA view it if the split is exactly 50/50. There online calculator only gives you the choice of being a payer or reciever, surely if it is 50/50 and both agree then no one should be paying anything or is it based on earnings as well. Many thanks for your advice
G - 18-Feb-15 @ 12:39 PM
@roxie - I'm sure she is safe with her dad, but it means you miss out on quality weekend time with her. It is up to you to work it out with him and if you would like some weekend time, then you should perhaps suggest you try and alternate weekends and instead he could take her mid-week instead. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 30-Jan-15 @ 2:27 PM
Hi everyone, my daughters almost 3 now and my arrangement with her father is that he keeps her thurs-sun one week then fri-sun the next. I'm just wondering if I'm doing the right thing by my daughter letting her go for so long as I always feel so guilty when she goes?
roxie - 29-Jan-15 @ 7:55 PM
@Jazzy - these tug-of-wars are always difficult and I imagine the mother is going through just as much pain as the father in this after not having her child returned and I suspect she will have put in a contact order and it may up to the courts to decide. It is very difficult to assess what may happen here as there is of course another side to the story. Rather than refusing to return the child your son could have instigated court proceedings in the form of a Prohibited Steps Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 to attempt to prevent the move, as she is obliged to gain permission from your son to move away given he has parental responsibility. There is little advice I can give here as you will have to wait and see what action your son's ex takes in retaliation.
SeparatedDads - 22-Jan-15 @ 10:59 AM
My son split from his ex in April last year and despite his ex being very bitter and jealous towards him since the split, has had regular contact with their son who is 3 next month.However she recently announced that she was moving away and would not give my son an address nor even an area where she was moving to (we have reason to believe it is a couple of hours away).My son therefore refused to return his son to her after his last contact visit as this seems entirely unreasonable to allow her to move without giving him an address.He has told her that she will need to apply to Court to determine who gets custody of their son (we have other concerns over his wellbeing and development whilst in her care).My son works full time and the mother does not but we have got the child into a local nursery which he is thoroughly enjoying.Any advice or comments please?
Jazzy - 21-Jan-15 @ 2:12 PM
Hi essex, I am in a similar situation as yours, even I have been reading and researching a lot. Considering you have made changes to your work to spend time with your kid, I think you have a good chances of retaining the arrangement, but I can understand your ex-wife's POV maybe you can agree on Joint Residency, 6 days with you (Mon - Sat) and Sun to Friday with your ex. Would love to hear on how you settled the matters.
Rob G - 28-Dec-14 @ 10:26 AM
My ex wife (we have been divorced 4.5 years) has recently got a new boyfriend who has moved into her house. My 9 year old son seemed to like him so I was happy. My relations have never been easy with my wife but we have got along for the sake of our son. However since the new boyfriend has been on the scene she now refuses to have any contact with me and is now communicating only via the boyfriend. Unfortunately the boyfriend seems to have taken a dislike to me and is increasing aggressive in communication and seems to enjoy telling me how horrible, rude and bad my son is and dictating that I can only speak to my son at certain times on the phone and only with me on speaker phone and him present. I have also found out after a quick google of the boyfriends name that he has a current conviction for assault and a court appearance/case 5 years ago for aledgedly beating up his then girlfriend. I am worried about my son in the house with this guy who is telling me aggressively that my son is basically horrible, rude and generally naughty. The boyfriend is 52 and should know better and mind his own business. Where should I start and what should I do?
ARM - 26-Dec-14 @ 4:43 PM
Hi, Im recently separated and have a very strong bond with my 2 year old boy, I have dropped my hours at work down to 4 days a week to spend the weekends with him and do the nursery run ect, however my ex has recently mentioned doing every other weekend rather than every as she feels with her week day commitments she needs the time at weekends more than me? When I challenge this she says if it goes to court that's all single fathers are allocated. I have done some research and read some of the comments below and if it does go down that route (but hope it doesn't) what are my chances of keeping this routine I have in place at present? thanks
essex - 25-Nov-14 @ 9:07 PM
I have a letter of agreement which states both my self and my x willhave joint care of my 2 boys. It also stated no party shall claim child mainaince due to boys being with each party equal amounts.Recently I received a letter stating owe child maintainance payments.As my partner had made an application with who knows what I said on it. Anyway the case was closed. The real problem now is that is is more and more difficult to get boys when I want and if I do not agree it all kicks off this is all with a letter of agreements which states joint care. I am due to collect boys at a certain time which my pattern does not agee with how can I pick up my boys without a drama. I was thinking maybe I should call the police before go to collect my boys. Any advice would be very very much appreciated. Thanks
Johns - 25-Nov-14 @ 5:20 PM
Hi just wondering if there is anyone that can help me I've spilt from my boys mum 4 years ago we have shared residence with them I had one child tax and child benift for one of my boys and the mum had the other but now there mum wants them both I'm in court on first of December for the child benifit but they have given her the child tax I have my boys 265 hours a month and take them out a lot when I have them i need money to get there clothes shoes and school things to so can anyone help me ( thanks )
Mark - 13-Nov-14 @ 6:16 PM
@moon - that seems like a nice gesture and one many fathers who are separated from their children would welcome. But separation hits people in different ways. While some parents might want to spend this special time with their children, for others it's just too painful a reminder of Christmas's past. In order to get through it, your ex's way of dealing with his pain might be having to cut himself off.
Rob - 11-Nov-14 @ 1:38 PM
Hi I just wanted to ask that if your ex had said you could sleep on the sofa xmas eve to see your nearly 3 year old open his presents xmas day, would you? I asked my ex if he wanted to do this and he said no as it would be too hard to leave xmas morning. I don't really understand this and wondered if this is something other fathers would do. Thanks
moon - 10-Nov-14 @ 10:25 PM
@oddjob - this seems very unreasonable and quite cruel that your ex wont let you see her over Christmas especially if she is staying at home, even if she allowed you to visit her at her home on Christmas Day would help you feel better I'm sure. I hope you manage to sort it out.
Sal - 23-Oct-14 @ 11:20 AM
Thanks for feedback. She has said our daughter wants to spend it at home but what does a 7 year old know? She should persuade her to come to me either of the days not let our daughter decide herself. She has said I can have her for the days leading up to Christmas and Christmas eve until 2-3pm but its just not the same. Just feel helpless
oddjob - 22-Oct-14 @ 4:25 PM
@Oddjob - Christmas is always the most difficult time for separated parents and when a veritable tug-o-war can happen. Are you going through mediation, is it something you can sort out via that? You don't say why she has refused access, if she is just being difficult then perhaps you could seek advice about taking it further or try to appeal to her better nature by telling her how hard it is for you not to see them at this special time. If she is the primary carer then she might then at least let you call in or let you have them for a few hours, or overnight. However, if she is taking them away, then as unfair as it seemingly is, it would make it impossible for you to see them. If that is the case then perhaps you could have a special Christmas Day on Christmas Eve and then make sure you call them on Christmas Day, and spend time with other members of your family to make it less painful. I know it is very difficult and you certainly wont be the only separated parent going through this pain this Xmas time. I just hope you can manage to sort it out. However,if you do want to seek legal advice, I would set the ball rolling now as the family law courts are usually busiest over Christmas.
SeparatedDads - 22-Oct-14 @ 12:16 PM
Hi I need some advice, My ex has said I can't have my daughter for Christmas or boxing day. I pay her maintenance every month and I have my daughter every other weekend and when I can in school holidays. She has said I can see her before Christmas but not on Christmas day or boxing day. I am thinking of taking her to court so she can't make everything to suit herself. Where do I stand and can I get a legal written agreement for holiday times like Christmas?
oddjob - 21-Oct-14 @ 4:18 PM
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
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