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Shared Custody of Your Children

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 24 Aug 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.

Separated Dads Chat Room & Forum

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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I have recently become involved with a single dad who is having a nightmare of a situation with his ex wife. As a single mother my child has a great relationship with his dad we are pretty much 50/50 were co fact is concerned and I don't really understand how any woman can use a child as a weapon. My partner has told me he has been to court in the past but because she technically isn't stopping him from seeing his child there isn't much they can do for him in that sense? I think he is scared to push for more contact as she pretty mich rules him and I think he is scared to lose the little co fact he has with him. 1 night over the weekend an a few hours on a Wednesday evening. As he was married and he is on the child's birth certificate does anyone have any advice o can look into? We are not in the UK unfortunately we reside in the isle of man And am not sure what difference that makes. I think he would just be happy with abit more contact and a set schedule in place bit she seems to make it as difficult as possible especially now o am on the scene. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Prin - 24-Aug-17 @ 12:40 AM
Hi, My Son & His exgirlfriend split up recently and they came to a verbal agreement that he would have his Daughter (who is 18 months old) from Sunday morning until Tuesday night.Recently she has rescinded on this arrangement and demanded that he only has her on a Saturday & Sunday from 9.30am until 5.30pm.He declined this demand and when he went to collect his Daughter as normal of the Sunday morning she refused to open the door or answer any of his calls or text messages.He has had no contact with his daughter in over two weeks.Please can someone advise what course of action he should take. Thanks Garry
Garri33 - 23-Aug-17 @ 3:29 PM
Deb - Your Question:
My husbands ex has stopped us seeing the children as he won't agree to what she wants. He can't see the kids weekends as he works and she'll only allow him 1 night during the week but has told us now to go to a lawyer. We did this 2 years ago and the letters didn't make much difference. We're going back to see a lawyer. Do we have to go to mediation before court? I can't see it ever working!

Our Response:
Yes, your husband would have to suggest mediation before any application to court can be made. If his ex refuses mediation, he will then be allowed to apply.
SeparatedDads - 21-Aug-17 @ 11:44 AM
My husbands ex has stopped us seeing the children as he won't agree to what she wants. He can't see the kids weekends as he works and she'll only allow him 1 night during the week but has told us now to go to a lawyer. We did this 2 years ago and the letters didn't make much difference. We're going back to see a lawyer. Do we have to go to mediation before court? I can't see it ever working!
Deb - 19-Aug-17 @ 9:32 PM
I was married to my ex for 10 years before she decided that my company was no longer required. I have three daughters who I see on average three nights a week due to shift patterns. I had a consent order drafted and ratified by a judge to agree a maintainance deal where I would pay a certain amount each month. The amount was agreed by us both along with the house being transferred to my ex so she could have all the equity. My ex has now decided that she is not happy with this and the consent order is now over 12 months old. Is anybody aware whether the consent order can be changed without my agreement when it was all agreed to by both parties and witnessed by a magistrate?
Bag1 - 10-Aug-17 @ 6:11 AM
Ellie - Your Question:
I have a daughter age just 1 year I split from my ex in march 2016 she was 7 months. He wanted other child I didn't anyway I went ahead and had one for him now he's left me I want him to have my daughter 3 days a week I feel he wanted other baby he should step up and be a dad he said he's not having her and I don't tell him when he has her I feel it very unfair we should share the bringing up of her. He's told me he taking me to court because I want him to have her 3 days lol I would like some advise on what the court will do thanks

Our Response:
Ther court will always decide what 'it' thinks is in the best interests of the child and it is unlikely to force a reluctant non-resident parent to take a child where the child is not wanted. However, it is likely mediation will be suggested first so you can try and work this out between you both.
SeparatedDads - 7-Aug-17 @ 3:21 PM
I have a daughter age just 1 year I split from my ex in march 2016 she was 7 months . He wanted other child I didn't anyway I went ahead and had one for him now he's left meI want him to have my daughter 3 days a week I feel he wanted other baby he should step up and be a dad he said he's not having her and I don't tell him when he has her I feel it very unfair we should share the bringing up of her . He's told me he taking me to court because I want him to have her 3 days lol I would like some advise on what the court will do thanks
Ellie - 6-Aug-17 @ 7:39 PM
We are currently going through a divorce after 5 yrs of separation. During this we have established a 50/50 share of childcare. Now i am being threatened with a CMS application. How can i show/apply for joint residency?The rules appear weighted against the person who is classed as the non-parent even if they are fully contributing.
MM6 - 2-Aug-17 @ 4:55 PM
I have 2 children 14 and 6 who stay with me when there mum is on shifts so can vary quite a bit from week to week but works out at 60% of the time they live with me. I want to apply foe joint custody to protect my legal rights and my future contact with them. She has said no in case she wants to move in future. She claims the child benefit and tax credits and does not help me out although she does buy clothes and pay the childcare fees, after this she has 400 left over a month. even though I am starting from scratch as I left her everything when I moved out. Would applying for joint custody be worthwhile? Would a judge decide if I would be considered primary carer? I have spoken to amediator but I just want to get the MIAM and go to court as she would not be willing and it is also not legally binding and she could change her mind at any rime
Mr bean - 2-Aug-17 @ 3:50 PM
Step mum- Your Question:
My partner regularly encounters problems with the mother of his son. A few years ago before we had a contact order in place, my partner would have to go without seeing his son for weeks because his ex would continuously use their son as a weapon to blackmail him. This was all due to the fact that we had started a relationship and she did not want him to move on. Before out relationship had started he had his son more than her most weeks. But because she didn't like that he was trying to move on in his life she would stop him from seeing their son. Eventually I convinced him to proceed with a contact order. The court heard that his ex was not spending enough time with their son so it was agreed that my partner would have his son every Tuesday and Thursday for overnight stay and every other weekend from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. Although this seemed like a good result it ended in my partner loosing out on a lot of quality time with his son. The contact order was put in place to ensure that the above days listed is the minimum time he must spend with his son. But when we ask for any extra time, one more overnight stay or for him to come for dinner one evening she almost always says no. We never have him 2 nights in a row because she also won't allow this. And now that his son is older and we have our own house only 2 minuets drive down the road from his sons mother he asks to stay more. There's a lot more going on than this on a daily basis but for to much to explain. I have said to my partner that it may be best to go for joint custody so they both have the same amount of time with there son. Do you think that this would be the best move? Many thanks

Our Response:
Your partner would have to try to resolve this via mediation initially, if his ex will not agree. If his ex refuses, then your partner can refer the matter back to court. If the court order specifies that this is the minimum amount of time your partner should spend with his child and his ex refuses to extend this, then he may have a case. He may wish to seek legal advice. Alternatively, sometimes a solicitor's letter referring to the terms of the order may do the trick.
SeparatedDads - 1-Aug-17 @ 3:21 PM
My partner regularly encounters problems with the mother of his son. A few years ago before we had a contact order in place, my partner would have to go without seeing his son for weeks because his ex would continuously use their son as a weapon to blackmail him. This was all due to the fact that we had started a relationship and she did not want him to move on. Before out relationship had started he had his son more than her most weeks. But because she didn't like that he was trying to move on in his life she would stop him from seeing their son. Eventually I convinced him to proceed with a contact order. The court heard that his ex was not spending enough time with their son so it was agreed that my partner would have his son every Tuesday and Thursday for overnight stay and every other weekend from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. Although this seemed like a good result it ended in my partner loosing out on a lot of quality time with his son. The contact order was put in place to ensure that the above days listed is the minimum time he must spend with his son. But when we ask for any extra time, one more overnight stay or for him to come for dinner one evening she almost always says no. We never have him 2 nights in a row because she also won't allow this. And now that his son is older and we have our own house only 2 minuets drive down the road from his sons mother he asks to stay more. There's a lot more going on than this on a daily basis but for to much to explain. I have said to my partner that it may be best to go for joint custody so they both have the same amount of time with there son. Do you think that this would be the best move? Many thanks
Step mum - 1-Aug-17 @ 1:49 PM
Mustang gt350 - Your Question:
Hi does anyone know how to apply for joint custody. I'm a father have child arrangements order in place I see my kids every fortnight. Is there a particular form to fill in when applying for joint custody?Also does anyone have any advice or experience about applying for joint custody?Thanks much appreciated

Our Response:
You will not be allowed to apply for a variation of child arrangement order unless you try to resolve the issue through mediation first. If your ex refuses, then you may be allowed to apply to court. However, you will have a good reason why you wish to vary the existing court order. It is unlikely a court will change the current order from once a fortnight to shared-care unless necessary. A court will always decide what it thinks is in your children's best interest and consistency and stability are considered most important.
SeparatedDads - 1-Aug-17 @ 12:05 PM
Hi does anyone know how to apply for joint custody. I'm a father have child arrangements order in place I see my kids every fortnight. Is there a particular form to fill in when applying for joint custody? Also does anyone have any advice or experience about applying for joint custody? Thanks much appreciated
Mustang gt350 - 31-Jul-17 @ 3:20 PM
Mama - Your Question:
My son's partner of over 10 years started an affair with a guy she works with and she ended it with my son just before Christmas, the new boyfriend moved in and it has been hell ever since then, my son has discovered she is leaving my grandson alone with the new boyfriend is there anything my son can do about this ? she dictates to my son who my grandson can have contact with when he is with his Daddy

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. In the first instance, your son will have to suggest mediation in order to iron out any issues him and his ex have between them. Your son will only have a case against his ex's new boyfriend if there is a good reason why the child should not be left in the boyfriend's care. As the mother has parental responsibility, she is deemed being responsible for making such decisions regarding who should look after and care for the child. Likewise, if your son has parental responsibility he too is deemed responsible for who his son can have contact with. However, this can cause arguments both ways and lead to bad feeling, this is where mediation can help, please see link here . If mediation fails, then the matter can be taken to court. However, court is always seen as the last resort. When relationships first break up, there can be many differences and teething problems with regards to access. The link here may help your son further. If the parents can try to negotiate for what is in the best interests of the child at all times, then is makes overcoming issues like this easier all round.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jul-17 @ 10:43 AM
My son's partner of over 10 years started an affair with a guy she works with and she ended it with my son just before Christmas, the new boyfriend moved in and it has been hellever since then, my son has discovered she is leaving my grandson alone with the new boyfriend is there anything my son can do about this ? she dictates to my son who my grandson can have contact with when he is with his Daddy
Mama - 25-Jul-17 @ 12:15 PM
can you please advise.. my ex refuse contact. he is using our 10years old daughter as a messenger. he told her he is going away and wi see her on wednesday instead of thursday.. ( the days he decided to see her are tuesday. thursday and sunday. 3hrs each) its not the first time i have to cancel our plans so she get to see her dad. and so he can go on holidays.. he always wait the day before if not the same day to let me know. i had my first meeting with a mediator but he hasnt.. he doesnt call mediator back even so she send letter and called him.. what are mh next step?if i were to aske for sole physical residency would i get it? we have been separated 18 monthd and not onceas he ask for her to spend a night.. i am totally at lost.. i am the primary carer( drop at school and pick up from school. i make all the dentist/doctor appointments. i organise childcare when needed. since started school in september he only had her 18 hrs( 8.30 till2.30) on a half term but he has been taking about 10 days off so far for him to go on hokidays.. i please advice. thanks.
Dyffy - 24-Jul-17 @ 6:40 PM
Martin - Your Question:
My wife wants a divorce, we have 2 children (11 and 9). I want 50/50 access where I have them 1 or 2 weeks then their mum has them for 1 or 2 weeks. My wife has says that her solicitor has informed her that the courts are unlikely to agree to this and that it will need to be more like a 70 / 30 split. Is this true or is she just saying that to try getting me to back down from that idea of 50 / 50 access? I intend to get a house near to the kids' schools.

Our Response:
If you cannot negotiate access between you, then you should suggest mediation to try to come to an agreement, please see link here . Only if you cannot come to an agreement or your ex refuses to attend should court be explored as a last resort. The court will always decide what it thinks is in your children's best interests. If you currently or previously shared the day-to-day care of your child, then the court is more likely to opt for consistency. If the mother is generally the day-to-day carer of your children, then you are more than likely to be awarded an access arrangement.
SeparatedDads - 24-Jul-17 @ 3:04 PM
My wife wants a divorce, we have 2 children (11 and 9).I want 50/50 access where I have them 1 or 2weeks then their mum has them for 1 or 2 weeks.My wife has says that her solicitor has informed her that the courts are unlikely to agree to this and that it will need to be more like a 70 / 30 split.Is this true or is she just saying that to try getting me to back down from that idea of 50 / 50 access?.I intend to get a house near to the kids' schools.
Martin - 23-Jul-17 @ 2:46 AM
Rorysrocket - Your Question:
Hi, I currently have a shared arrangement for my 4 year old son. I have him Friday evenings to Tuesday mornings.But when his mother and I split up I signed over primary caregiver status to her so that she could claim benefits in order to make things easier for her.At the time I was receiving working tax credit. This stopped once I handed over the caregiver status and my earnings no longer met the threshold to qualify for it. I now get no support yet still have the same out goings. I've been told this can be resolved but I can't find any info on it. Can any here advise me? It's really made things very difficult for me.I did try to join your forum but was told I look like a spammer which I'm not.

Our Response:
I'm afraid only one parent can receive working tax credit, the primary carer. I can only suggest you negotiate with your ex to share the amount, or one of you receive child benefit and the other WTC. If you cannot agree between you, then mediation is the next port of call.
SeparatedDads - 20-Jul-17 @ 2:12 PM
Hi, I currently have a shared arrangement for my 4 year old son. I have him Friday evenings to Tuesday mornings. But when his mother and I split up I signed over primary caregiver status to her so that she could claim benefits in order to make things easier for her. At the time i was receiving working tax credit. This stopped once I handed over the caregiver status and my earnings no longer met the threshold to qualify for it. I now get no support yet still have the same out goings. I've been told this can be resolved but I can't find any info on it. Can any here advise me? It's really made things very difficult for me. I did try to join your forum but was told I look like a spammer which I'm not.
Rorysrocket - 19-Jul-17 @ 9:56 PM
Hi, I'm after some advice please, I split from my wife two years ago and I left her everything and had to start again, I moved in to a one bed council flat, I have my two kids one night a week, I have an 11 yr old boy and a 9 yr old girl, It's becoming hard with the 3 of us in one room, I asked the council if I could have a two bed house and they told me to provide proof I have them so my ex wrote a letter and signed it, They then said a few weeks later that I am not entitled because it's only one night a week? Does anyone know how many nights a week I could have them in order to possibly get an extra room? I have thought about going private but I had a stroke after the breakup and had to go on sickness benefits so I can't afford it unfortunately. Thanks in advance.
Matt - 19-Jul-17 @ 3:23 PM
Hi my son and I have shared custodyof his three childrenaged 6 5 and 2 I work 40 hours per weekam I entitledtoany help
The - 15-Jul-17 @ 12:02 AM
Boomer888 - Your Question:
Hi,I have a current contact order in place whereby I see my daughter 4 days / 3 nights in every 10. I recently asked the courts to extend this to 50/50, the relationship between the mother and I is acrimonious at best to the point whereby she argues everything to the Nth degree. This has led to the court appointing a guardian from CAFCASS this is worrying as previously I have only seen them almost acting on my ex partners behalf. Will the guardian be a normal CARCASS officer or are they specific to that role, when the talk to my child will they take into consideration that mum manipulates her into saying what she wants and surely there would be a human rights issue if they denied me 50% access to my child without very good reasoning. I am going for this access as it is as much as I can around working and as a direct result of bringing stability to my little girls life. We live within 5 miles of each other. I know this is sometimes raised when arguing these cases.Many thanksLee

Our Response:
We cannot comment directly on the workings of Cafcass. However, we can direct you to the link: What Goes into the Cafcass Family Report? This may give you more information here regarding the role of Cafcass.
SeparatedDads - 13-Jul-17 @ 12:37 PM
Hi, I have a current contact order in place whereby I see my daughter 4 days / 3 nights in every 10. I recently asked the courts to extend this to 50/50, the relationship between the mother and I is acrimonious at best to the point whereby she argues everything to the Nth degree. This has led to the court appointing a guardian from CAFCASS this is worrying as previously i have only seen them almost acting on my ex partners behalf. Will the guardian be a normal CARCASS officer or are they specific to that role, when the talk to my child will they take into consideration that mum manipulates her into saying what she wants and surely there would be a human rights issue if they denied me 50% access to my child without very good reasoning. I am going for this access as it is as much as I can around working and as a direct result of bringing stability to my little girls life. We live within 5 miles of each other.. I know this is sometimes raised when arguing these cases. Many thanks Lee
Boomer888 - 12-Jul-17 @ 6:32 AM
Hi All, I have a shared parenting order with a 6-0/40 split in the favour of my ex, my kids are 13,10 and 8 and they are continuously vocal about wanting more time. The eldest has recently started voting with his feet turning up at mine when he should be with his mum and refusing to go home with her when she shows up. The ex will not discuss the situation with the children, me or a mediator and I fear this is only going to get worse as the younger ones are getting more and more vocal. any advice folks????
justdoingwhatsbest - 7-Jul-17 @ 2:31 PM
Scott - Your Question:
Hi - I got divorced just over 6 years ago - I have 2 children 18 and almost 14. I have always had joint custody of both and consent order was issued in the divorce stating this. My Eldest child now pretty much spends most of the time with me, due to studying which makes life easier. Everything has been fine, but just recently my ex has kept talking about my youngest staying there during the week, and that I may only see her once a fortnight, which obviously I am not happy about at all. I spoke to my youngest about it, and was told Mum will be lonely and wants to see more of me - Since this has come to light, my Eldest told me in confidence that their Mother has been talking a lot about loss of revenue as my eldest is now officially an adult - Maybe with regards to Child Benefit (Which she has always had from day 1) or Child Tax Credit - I'm not sure. Anyway my question is, can she just change the custody without my permission. I fear it maybe more for financial reasons, which is disgraceful.

Our Response:
If your ex decides to withhold access and breach the consent order, you may wish to ask a solicitor to write a letter to your ex reminding her of the terms of the agreement and that you will not hesitate to refer the matter back to court if she reneges on it. Finances and child access have no bearing upon each other. You don't say whether you are paying your ex child maintenance as it's only really this which would have an influence on the amount your ex would be paid, should you have your daughter less overnight. On another note, perhaps your ex is lonely if your son is living with your full-time and this matter is more one for mutual negotiation rather than coming down with a sledgehammer approach. It's easy to jump to conclusions when a simple discussion might resolve the issue easily and amicably.
SeparatedDads - 4-Jul-17 @ 2:08 PM
Hi - I got divorced just over 6 years ago - I have 2 children 18 and almost 14.I have always had joint custody of both and consent order was issued in the divorce stating this. My Eldest child now pretty much spends most of the time with me, due to studying which makes life easier. Everything has been fine, but just recently my ex has kept talking about my youngest staying there during the week, and that I may only see her once a fortnight, which obviously I am not happy about at all. I spoke to my youngest about it, and was told Mum will be lonely and wants to see more of me - Since this has come to light, my Eldest told me in confidence that their Mother has been talking a lot about loss of revenue as my eldest is now officially an adult - Maybe with regards to Child Benefit (Which she has always had from day 1) or Child Tax Credit - I'm not sure. Anyway my question is, can she just change the custody without my permission. I fear it maybe more for financial reasons, which is disgraceful.
Scott - 4-Jul-17 @ 7:28 AM
JP - Your Question:
Hello. I hope you can help me. I have joint custody of my two children. It was agreed in court back in 2016. Im planning on taking a break and going away for 3 months at the end of this year. Would that be possible or would I have to give full custody to their mother ?, Thanks.

Our Response:
Any changes to a contact order must be agreed by both parties. One party cannot unilaterally decide to change the order or apply additional terms. If they wish to do so, they will need to refer the matter back to the courts. Shared care means both parents sharing the care of your children. If you leave the country for a period of time without prior agreement and/or an agreement with your ex to pick up the court order where you left off when you return, it essentially renders the original court order null and void. This means if your ex refuses to adhere to the original court order when you return, you would have to take the matter back to court. However, there is no guarantee you would be awarded the same court order as before you left. Therefore, it is advisable that you apply to court for a variation/specific issue order to request the courts vary the order for a three month period of time. When making the decision, the courts will decide upon what it thinks is in your children's best interests.
SeparatedDads - 30-Jun-17 @ 11:48 AM
Hello. I hope you can help me. I have joint custody of my two children. It was agreed in court back in 2016. Im planning on taking a break and going away for 3 months at the end of this year. Would that be possible or would i have to give full custody to their mother ?, Thanks.
JP - 29-Jun-17 @ 5:31 PM
Petra - Your Question:
Hello,After separating I was the main carer of my daughter however she started really missing her dad and complaining that she hardly sees him. In my country it's quite common to share custody equally and I have offered to try it out till end of September. So we agreed a week here and a week there. Though it's early days It seems to work well. She seems more relaxed, less tensed.If we make it permanent my ex will need to move as at the moment they are sharing a room at his mum house and if they move he would like to claim housing benefit. I work part time and renting our home too. I receive some housing benefit, child tax credit and the childcare element of the working tax credit. What I read online it seems to me that child benefit and tax credit cannot be claimed by both parents. Is it correct? Can Housing benefit be claimed by both of us?

Our Response:
Child tax credit and child benefit cannot be claimed by both parents. The father of your child should be able to claim housing benefit. However, this could be reduced if he takes up a council or social housing home and has a spare bedroom, as he will be subjected to bedroom tax, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 29-Jun-17 @ 10:36 AM
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