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Shared Custody of Your Children

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 25 May 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]
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
Happiness- Your Question:
My ex partner managed despite violent behaviour and other things to get a shared residency order a few years ago however I had the main contact (he had every other weekend and one evening every other week) he fought me over schools recently wanting to change my diagnosed child from his school two years before secondary) and he wanted half time, our 9 year old child wanted less time. Due to his behaviour he didn't get half time. He now has an extra evening and tge school wasn't changed. Can I get the shared residency changed? I have most of the responsibility. He is very disagreeable about things and we can't agree on much, he keeps me out of things to do with our child that are important causing stress to me and our child. What are my rights?

Our Response:
I can only suggest you seek legal advice regarding this matter, as it is likely in order to get a resolution to your issues you would have to take this back to court.
SeparatedDads - 23-May-16 @ 11:03 AM
mah1982 - Your Question:
Hi,My nearly 4 year old daughter has been living with myself and my ex wife. The situation has been that she since just over 1 has been living in the married house with either her mother or me her father.My ex wife has a new partner who lives 100+ miles away. She is now pregnant and plans to move there.With this there is no way I can get to see my daughter. I work Monday to Friday and by the time ive driven that 100+ miles its easily 8pm and her bed time. Also if I was to get her I wouldnt get home until Midnight.Her 4 grandparents are hereHer aunty is hereHer nursery is here along with friendsHer childminder is hereShe has mild ocd and needa routine and I know for a fact moving will upset her and unbalance her.What can I do?

Our Response:
As you have parental responsibility of your child, your ex has to ask your consent to move out of the area. If you feel your ex may move out of the area without your consent and take your daughter with her, you can apply through the court 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. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their children. At the same time and should you wish, you can apply to the courts for a Child Arrangement Order which will determine which parent your daughter should live with. If the court rules in your favour, you would become the primary carer of your daughter and your ex the non-resident parent. However, there is no guarantee the court would rule in your favour, but the court does value consistency and stability which your child currently has, the court will always decide what it thinks is in your child's best interests. Of course, court is always considered the last option and if you can it is in all of your best interests to try to agree this matter outside court, or via mediation. Shared care is an unlikely option given the distance your ex is thinking of moving, therefore it means one parent will become the resident parent and the other parent, the non-resident parent. It is up to you both to try to decide what is in the best interests of your child and if you can't agree then you will have the option to take it further.
SeparatedDads - 23-May-16 @ 10:47 AM
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?
Rachy - 22-May-16 @ 9:05 PM
My ex partner managed despite violent behaviour and other things to get a shared residency order a few years ago however I had the main contact (he had every other weekend and one evening every other week) he fought me over schools recently wanting to change my diagnosed child from his school two years before secondary) and he wanted half time, our 9 year old child wanted less time.Due to his behaviour he didn't get half time.He now has an extra evening and tge school wasn't changed. Can I get the shared residency changed? I have most of the responsibility.He is very disagreeable about things and we can't agree on much, he keeps me out of things to do with our child that are important causing stress to me and our child. What are my rights?
Happiness - 22-May-16 @ 9:36 AM
Hi, My nearly 4 year old daughter has been living with myself and my ex wife. The situation has been that she since just over 1 has been living in the married house with either her mother or me her father. My ex wife has a new partner who lives 100+ miles away. She is now pregnant and plans to move there. With this there is no way I can get to see my daughter. I work Monday to Friday and by the time ive driven that 100+ miles its easily 8pm and her bed time. Also if I was to get her I wouldnt get home until Midnight. Her 4 grandparents are here Her aunty is here Her nursery is here along with friends Her childminder is here She has mild ocd and needa routine and I know for a fact moving will upset her and unbalance her. What can I do?
mah1982 - 22-May-16 @ 9:08 AM
JH - Your Question:
Please help!!! I have joint custody of my two boys with my ex, she has them more than I do due to me working an antisocial shift pattern. I want to take the boys out of school for the past week of school term before Christmas as this is the only time I can get off work, however my ex has said no as she doesn't want them out of school and she seems to like throwing a spanner in the works wherever possible. Where do I stand legally considering the school will give permission for it in the first place?!?!

Our Response:
You would have to apply for a Specific Issue Order through the courts, please see link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 20-May-16 @ 2:58 PM
Please help!!! I have joint custody of my two boys with my ex, she has them more than I do due to me working an antisocial shift pattern. I want to take the boys out of school for the past week of school term before Christmas as this is the only time I can get off work, however my ex has said no as she doesn't want them out of school and she seems to like throwing a spanner in the works wherever possible. Where do I stand legally considering the school will give permission for it in the first place?!?!
JH - 20-May-16 @ 12:37 PM
Stepmom- Your Question:
Hi this question is on behalf of my husband - he has a 15 year old daughter who has stayed with us at least every other weekend since she was 7. Her father pays maintaince as well as other things on top. The daughter's going though a bit of a tough time with her extremely strict mum at the moment and also does not have an environment which is supportive in terms of support around her education. She often cooks for herself as well as doing a lot of household chores. Shes s great girl but we can see how hard she's finding things. We would really like her to stay with us more which her mum doesn't allow - and in that interest of the daughter we would like to consider joint custody. So she has a more stable home life and more support particularly in this time of GCSEs. She really wants to stay with us more but her mother won't let her so can you advise on how to apply for joint custody?

Our Response:
As your step-daughter is now 15, should you take the matter to mediation or court then she will be allowed her opinion regarding where she spends her time. However, it is not as straightforward as that. Your husband's first approach should be to try to discuss this rationally with his ex. If he has done this and she has refused, then at this stage he may wish to seek some legal advice regarding his options and suggest mediation as a way to try to reach an agreement or compromise. A solicitor's letter stating that if his ex does not agree to attend mediation (it's voluntary), then he will take the matter to court, may make his ex reconsider mediation. The court prefers parents to have attempted to resolve any issue this way before it will let a non-resident parent apply, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here . If his ex refuses to attend mediation, or if the process breaks down before an agreement is reached, then he would have the option to take the matter to court to let a court decide. Before the matter goes to court Cafcass would then get involved, please see link here . However, even though your step-daughter is 15, while she may have an opionion, the court will always decide what it thinks is in 'her' best interests, which may not always equate to what you or your husband may necessarily want. Once she is 16, your daughter will have more autonomy again. So it is worthwhile you considering what you feel the best approach should be. Mutual agreement is always the best one, if you can. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 17-May-16 @ 10:33 AM
Hi this question is on behalf of my husband - he has a 15 year old daughter who has stayed with us at least every other weekend since she was 7. Her father pays maintaince as well as other things on top. The daughter's going though a bit of a tough time with her extremely strict mum at the moment and also does not have an environment which is supportive in terms of support around her education. She often cooks for herself as well as doing a lot of household chores. Shes s great girl but we can see how hard she's finding things . We would really like her to stay with us more which her mum doesn't allow - and in that interest of the daughter we would like to consider joint custody. So she has a more stable home life and more support particularly in this time of GCSEs . She really wants to stay with us more but her mother won't let her so can you advise on how to apply for joint custody?
Stepmom - 16-May-16 @ 11:39 AM
I have a daughter and a court order from the Netherlands about joint custody. However after our separation in Nov 2014 my daughter spends 50% of her time with me which is great and we had a family based agreement for child maintenance. However the mother of my child became more greedy and filed a case with the Child Maintenance Service told them that my daughter is only one to two days a week with me to get more money of me. I informed them that my daughter is 50% of her time with me send them the court order from the Netherlands which they ignored and told me, they only take the information the mom provides into the decision process which they did. I feel discriminated by the UK government as the father of my daughter. What can I do now?
Pschu - 9-May-16 @ 11:42 AM
Gazdrummer - Your Question:
Hi , I'm just going through separation with my wife. I work a shift pattern of 6 days on 4 off in the summer and 5 on 3 off in the winter. I have live in grandparents on my final shift of each rotation I have a night shift where I would.leave for work after the children have gone to bed, then grandparents willing to watch over them untilminarrive home again before they would wake. My question is I am looking for joint custody 50/50 and could do 5 days me 5 day wife in summer them 4 days me and 4 days wife in winter. Would it be allowed.on this kind of rotation of days as I couldn't have the children the same days each week. And what are the chances of getting 50/50 custody if it couldn't be agreed in mediation? Many thanks

Our Response:
50/50 custody is preferred by the courts to be agreed between both parents. You may be awarded 50/50 custody if you have played an integral part in your childrens' lives. However, the best way to secure shared-care is to agree the principles and logistics between you and your ex, or through Mediation if you can't agree the arrangements between yourselves. If you take the matter to court, Cafcass would get involved and I'm afraid we cannot predict what the outcome of the Cafcass report would recommend and equally on the back of it, what the court may decide.
SeparatedDads - 5-May-16 @ 2:30 PM
Hi , I'm just going through separation with my wife. I work a shift pattern of 6 days on 4 off in the summer and 5 on 3 off in the winter. I have live in grandparents on my final shift of each rotation I have a night shift where I would.leave for work after the children have gone to bed, then grandparents willing to watch over them untilminarrive home again before they would wake. My question is I am looking for joint custody 50/50 and could do 5 days me 5 day wife in summer them 4 days me and 4 days wife in winter. Would it be allowed.on this kind of rotation of days as I couldn't have the children the same days each week. And what are the chances of getting 50/50 custody if it couldn't be agreed in mediation? Many thanks
Gazdrummer - 5-May-16 @ 1:06 AM
Hi there, I'm wanting shared custody of my kids We have them Friday night , Saturday night, and they go home on Sunday, I beleive my ex's boyfriend isn't right to be around my kids so I am wanting to have them around me a lot more, I have a good job and and good family to help me out, what the the chances of representing myself in court and winning, I don't beleive she will agree with it as she is more bothered about taking me to the cleaners for money.. Hope to hear from you soon ??
Mike - 29-Apr-16 @ 11:07 AM
Hi all if anyone could give help I be much appreciated. I'm taking my ex back to court full custody knowing I'm not going to receive that my solicitor might have given me false hope. I am ASDA 50 50 Shared Care living arrangements but I don't know how to put it in writing to the courts can anyone help what I should expect to get if I get 50 50. I'm at the as they already know half full school holidays bank holidays rotations Christmas and stuff like that but I don't know how the weekly living arrangements go, can anyone help thank you
Martin - 27-Apr-16 @ 9:01 PM
corey - Your Question:
I and my ex separated 13 years ago ive not seen children for 10 years.plus have no idea were about there are my son 19 and my daughter 18, just need help what to do next

Our Response:
Now your daughter and son are adults then you can approach them without going to through the courts. Social media is one way that you may be able to find them, or you may wish to use a professional tracing service, also the Living People link heremay help along with the Salvation Army's Reuniting Families, please see link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 25-Apr-16 @ 12:30 PM
Joey- Your Question:
Hi all, my child's mother and I have been separated for around 7 years now and the access hasn't really changed much. I am looking to see if I can gain joint custody as I am fed up of arguing over minutes and times. I have very little access at the moment. I have him from 1pm-7pm on a Sunday one week and then the following week I have him on a Saturday from 5pm till Sunday 4pm. I'm pretty sure this is a fraction of what I could get if I went to court. I have done mediation and not really got anywhere. I am now in the position to afford court so I was just wondering if anybody could shed some light on what I can expect or how I go about it. Thanks in advance

Our Response:
You may in this instance find our Separated Dads forum useful for this sort of advice as many fathers have been through similar situations before and can therefore give some good advice. However, it is highly unlikely a court would issue shared care if you do not have your child very often. The courts usualy only consent to shared care when the parents agree to it. However, this is not to say you wouldn't be granted more access, especially if you have been on the same access routine since you split up seven years ago.
SeparatedDads - 25-Apr-16 @ 12:20 PM
Adz84 - Your Question:
Me and my ex split up in Feb, I work nights but I currently have my son Monday to Thursday from 3pm until 7pm, I then have him 3pm Friday until 7pm Saturday, and 10am Sunday until 9am Monday. I want joint custody officially as I don't want her to be able to just chop and change as she feels like it, what chance would I have legally to get joint custody of him, there is no neglect issue from her or anything like that, I feel we are both good parents and both have great relationship with him, but issues between us has caused her to be vindictive at times.Thanks

Our Response:
Joint custody is usually agreed between parents and it is preferred that both parents are in agreement. The court will usually decide that one parent is classed as the primary carer and the other the non-resident parent, even though the time spent with your child may be very nearly equal. Therefore, it is very difficult to anticipate what a court may decide. If you have occasional disagreements with your ex, but otherwise the parenting is pretty evenly split, then you may wish to contemplate Mediation instead to iron out your differences, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 25-Apr-16 @ 10:49 AM
I and my ex separated 13 years agoive not seen children for 10 years.plus have no idea were about there are my son 19 and my daughter 18, just need help what to do next
corey - 24-Apr-16 @ 6:51 PM
Hi all, my child's mother and I have been separated for around 7 years now and the access hasn't really changed much. I am looking to see if I can gain joint custody as I am fed up of arguing over minutes and times. I have very little access at the moment. I have him from 1pm-7pm on a Sunday one week and then the following week I have him on a Saturday from 5pm till Sunday 4pm. I'm pretty sure this is a fraction of what I could get if I went to court. I have done mediation and not really got anywhere. I am now in the position to afford court so I was just wondering if anybody could shed some light on what I can expect or how I go about it. Thanks in advance
Joey - 24-Apr-16 @ 6:11 PM
Me and my ex split up in Feb, I work nights but I currently have my son Monday to Thursday from 3pm until 7pm, I then have him 3pm Friday until 7pm Saturday, and 10am Sunday until 9am Monday. I want joint custody officially as I don't want her to be able to just chop and change as she feels like it, what chance would I have legally to get joint custody of him, there is no neglect issue from her or anything like that, I feel we are both good parents and both have great relationship with him, but issues between us has caused her to be vindictive at times. Thanks
Adz84 - 24-Apr-16 @ 11:58 AM
shezz - Your Question:
Jus a quick question my brother n hos ex have been split for few months n her new bf is very controlling they have tried to get along for their daughter but her new bf doesn't like it my brother pays £45 maintenance a wk but has his daughter more than she does he buys nappies, food, clothes ect n already lost a job due to bein tired as she don't collect her when she knows he's working nights has anyone got any advice on what he should do

Our Response:
I'm not sure of your question here, but I'll try to answer it as best I can. If your brother has lost his job and is claiming benefits then he will only have to pay flat rate child maintenance at the most. If he is unhappy with the child arrangements, and him and his ex cannot sort the issue out between them, then Mediation may be the answer, please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here.
SeparatedDads - 21-Apr-16 @ 1:54 PM
Jus a quick question my brother n hos ex have been split for few months n her new bf is very controlling they have tried to get along for their daughter but her new bf doesn't like it my brother pays £45 maintenance a wk but has his daughter more than she does he buys nappies, food, clothes ect n already lost a job due to bein tired as she don't collect her when she knows he's working nights has anyone got any advice on what he should do
shezz - 20-Apr-16 @ 7:06 PM
Reece - Your Question:
My ex keeps refusing to let me see our 15 month old daughter since we split a few weeks ago despite me always paying and supporting her and always looking after my daughter whilst she is at work etc.The only way I will get visitation is if the courts are involved what is the quickest and most reasonable and fair way about this ? I don't wanna come away with just the odd day here and there I want shared custody really.Any help appreciated

Our Response:
If your ex is denying you access please see link: When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access, here and consider going through the motions laid out in the article. It is highly unlikely you will be offered shared care of your daughter through the courts unless your ex agrees. However, the courts do want fathers to have a healthy input into their child's life, therefore if you have been constant in your child's life to date, it means your child is familiar enough with you as a parent and therefore you should be awarded more than 'just the odd day here and there'. The court also may suggest you try to resolve this through Mediation first before you can apply, which can put the process back, should you want it to go directly to court. Another option is to suggest Mediation to your ex and if she refuses then you will be allowed to apply directly to the courts. If she consents to mediation then you should both go in with an open view on trying to come to an agreement about your access rights, which will then be verified by the courts. Please also see: Mediation - What is it and is it For Me? here . I hope this helps and you regain access soon.
SeparatedDads - 20-Apr-16 @ 12:16 PM
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