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Shared Custody of Your Children

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 14 Feb 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.

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[Add a Comment]
How can a mother think it's acceptable to tell a dad that a couple nights a week is "sufficient" when she has the child every day. I'm so fed up with hearing mothers think that kids are better off with them and dads have to fit in. It takes two people to have a child, there fore why should a dad had to go one week to the next without seeing their child. This message is for kmkm.
Cas123 - 14-Feb-17 @ 9:29 PM
Hi I left my ex almost a year ago now I had regular access to my daughter every weekend. Had a brilliant relationship with her and she absolutely loved spending time with me. Now my ex has decided to stop my daughter from seeing me, for reasons that are not my fault.Now she claims universal credit and understand she will get legal aid for the mediation but there is a good chance we could be going to court because she won't agree with the times I want my daughter.My question is if it goes as far as court will she have to pay any legal fees or will it all be down to me??. There was no domestic violence involved and she was the one that stopped me seeing my daughter it wasn't my choice.
John - 10-Feb-17 @ 6:59 PM
Confused - Your Question:
I really dont no where to start I split up with my ex 4 years ago I have a 6 year old child with him he sees his child once a week for a hour because I got advised off a solicitor that I had to safeguard my child because on a weekend he wouldnt show up or he would turn up hours late or turn up off his head on drugs or drink so in the end put a stop to it completley on a weekend so I wouldnt have to pick the pieces up from my devastated child. my agreement was that he could see child anytime in the week after work. my child has never stopped at dads house because I dont no where he lives and how do I no he dosent take drugs when he gets home. I got advice from a solicitor to safe guard my child as much as possible anyway I recently took him to csa he refuses to answer phone calls to them letters writen by them and is now saying he dosent see the child often enough to pay maintenance. hes now saying hes going to take me to court to see child but wont pay maintenance if he took me to court where would I stand with this am quite happy for him to see child but concerns overnight stay and with him workin in week would he get my child everyweekend yes he is on birth certificate I dont understand what games hes playing because he has never been bothered in his child never bought his child anything not once put a penny towards his child and now his mother has decided to poke her nose in and defend her son by saying he dosent need to pay for his child if he dosent see him. and also bullying me and harrassing me constantly to the point my childs getting upset my child sees nan twice a week after school and now shes saying she will turn up at school and take my child when she wants I really dont no what to do if I phoned the police for harrassment because shes threatening to take my child and harrasing me would a restraining order go against me and my child or what am in such a sticky situation luckly my oldest one is grown up now and left home never had a problem with her dad

Our Response:
Child maintenance and child access have no bearing upon each other. Regardless of whether your ex sees your child or not, he is still by law required to financially support your child until your child leaves full-time education. Access is a different matter. Your ex is allowed to either suggest mediation in order to resolve the issue betwen you, or apply through the courts to see your child if he is not satisfied with the level of contact or access he currently has. The court will then decide what it thinks is in the best interests of your child and any court order will have to be adhered to. On another note, your ex's mother has no right to make threats that she will come to the school and take your child and a word with the headteacher will help here, or a letter from a solicitor outlining her lack of rights may also help to put the issue into perspective. Please also see Mediation link here. Mediation is always a better solution than dragging the matter through court. However, you would have open to negotiation.
SeparatedDads - 7-Feb-17 @ 10:38 AM
Gaz - Your Question:
Hi, my fiance and I have split only recently, I am already reluctant 2 pay her anything towards child maintenance because has taken a lot of money with her she wasn't allowed 2. I have our 5 year old son on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights and Friday evening up until Sunday evenings every other weekend, I have said I will provide him with everything, clothes, uniform, toiletries food and drink, do I still have 2 pay the full 58 pound a month 4 child maintenance?

Our Response:
If you have a family-based arrangement, then you can pay whatever you agree mutually between you and are not liable for arrears. If you have an arrangement via the CMS, then regardless of what you provide for your child, you still first and foremost have to pay child maintenance. Anything you pay beyond the assessed CMS payment is seen as discretionary and will not be taken into account. This means if you continue to pay outside the CMS agreement, you will be liable for CMS arears.
SeparatedDads - 6-Feb-17 @ 1:59 PM
I really dont no where to start i split up with my ex 4 years ago i have a 6 year old child with him he sees his child once a week for a hour because i got advised off a solicitor that i had to safeguard my child because on a weekend he wouldnt show up or he would turn up hours late or turn up off his head on drugs or drink so in the end put a stop to it completley on a weekend so i wouldnt have to pick the pieces up from my devastated child.. my agreement was that he could see child anytime in the week after work... my child has never stopped at dads house because i dont no where he lives and how do i no he dosent take drugs when he gets home... i got advice from a solicitor to safe guard my child as much as possible anyway i recently took him to csa he refuses to answer phone calls to them letters writen by them and is now saying he dosent see the child often enough to pay maintenance... hes now saying hes going to take me to court to see child but wont pay maintenance if he took me to court where would i stand with this am quite happy for him to see child but concerns overnight stay and with him workin in week would he get my child everyweekend yes he is on birth certificate i dont understand what games hes playing because he has never been bothered in his child never bought his child anything not once put a penny towards his child and now his mother has decided to poke her nose in and defend her son by saying he dosent need to pay for his child if he dosent see him.. and also bullying me and harrassing me constantly to the point my childs getting upset my child seesnan twice a week after school and now shes saying she will turn up at school and take my child when she wants i really dont no what to do if i phoned the police for harrassment because shes threatening to take my child and harrasing me would a restraining order go against me and my child or what am in such a sticky situation luckly my oldest one is grown up now and left home never had a problem with her dad
Confused - 6-Feb-17 @ 2:45 AM
Hi, my fiance and I have split only recently, i am already reluctant 2 pay her anything towards child maintenance because has taken a lot of money with her she wasn't allowed 2. I have our 5 year old son on Tuesday nights, Thursday nights and Friday evening up until Sunday evenings every other weekend, I have said I will provide him with everything, clothes,uniform, toiletries food and drink, do I still have 2 pay the full 58 pound a month 4 child maintenance?
Gaz - 4-Feb-17 @ 9:52 PM
Kmkm - Your Question:
Hi. My partner and I split up 1.5 years ago and have a 4 year old son.Although the split was his decision, we remained amicable and made our own arrangements regarding his access to our son.His father picks him up from school on a Monday and Wednesday and puts him to bed in my home. He also has him Friday evening to Sunday evening every other weekend when he takes him to stay at his parents or girlfriends.My ex now wishes to keep my soon over night at his place on a Monday and Wednesday - which means I'll not have my son a further two mornings a week. I feel that our current arrangement is sufficient and reasonable - where do I stand with this matter? I really do not want to lose any further time with my son! Ex does not appreciate my view and is adamant he will have 50:50 access. Advise much appreciated.

Our Response:
If you cannot agree between yourselves (you have a right to your own opinion - as your ex does with his), then you may wish to consider mediation, please see link Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here. If you do not wish to discuss the matter or make any compromise, then your ex would have the option to take the matter to court. However, this does not mean the court would opt for giving him the access he has asked for. It will decide upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your son.
SeparatedDads - 31-Jan-17 @ 12:57 PM
Hi. My partner and I split up 1.5 years ago and have a 4 year old son. Although the split was his decision, we remained amicable and made our own arrangements regarding his access to our son. His father picks him up from school on a Monday and Wednesday and puts him to bed in my home. He also has him Friday evening to Sunday evening every other weekend when he takes him to stay at his parents or girlfriends. My ex now wishes to keep my soon over night at his place on a Monday and Wednesday -which means I'll not have my son a further two mornings a week. I feel that our current arrangement is sufficient and reasonable - where do I stand with this matter? I really do not want to lose any further time with my son! Ex does not appreciate my view and is adamant he will have 50:50 access. Advise much appreciated.
Kmkm - 30-Jan-17 @ 10:53 PM
Pclay - Your Question:
Me and my wife divorced last year we have an 8 yr old boy whom I have every weds, from school and alternate sat pm to mon am, she has threatened to stop sat nights as he has football on a Sunday. She is forever messing arranged times around to suit her self which creates a lot of unnessary stress. Is there a simple process with out the full cost of applying for joint custody (which I would be prepared to do if needed)Where abouts a court can set time and days in stone? Thank you.

Our Response:
If you wish to try to arrange specific times to see your child, then in the first instance you would need to suggest mediation, please see link here. A court will not accept an application until mediation has been considered by both parents. If your ex refuses to attend mediation, then you should apply for a child arrangement order, please see link here. Unless you already have shared care of your son, then an application for joint custody will not be considered unless necessary. A court will always decide upon what it thinks is in your child's best interests and continuity and stability is considered most important. However, the chances are it would issue and order along the same lines as your established access and this would have to then be adhered to by both parents.
SeparatedDads - 30-Jan-17 @ 10:28 AM
Me and my wife divorced last year we have an 8 yr old boy whom I have every weds, from school and alternate sat pm to mon am, she has threatened to stop sat nights as he has football on a Sunday. She is forever messing arranged times around to suit her self which creates a lot of unnessary stress. Is there a simple process with out the full cost of applying for joint custody (which I would be prepared to do if needed) Where abouts a court can set time and days in stone? Thank you.
Pclay - 29-Jan-17 @ 12:17 PM
My partner has seperated from his ex and has the 3 children 3 days a wk but she claimes for them is this right cos he is on sick and only gets payed for himself yet has t try and feed clothe and pay for the kids while there in his care which has bin writen days by a solicitor is there anything he can claim just not fair she had the money and payed for the wk of having them when she has them for half of it and he gets nothing for them and has them the other half thanks for any help you can give
Phebes - 27-Jan-17 @ 5:43 PM
Mel84 - Your Question:
Hello What constitutes a non resident parent. How many days a week minimum please?

Our Response:
A non-resident parent is in simple terms the parent who does not live with the child, and is not in receipt of any child benefits.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jan-17 @ 2:12 PM
Hello What constitutes a non resident parent. How many days a week minimum please?
Mel84 - 26-Jan-17 @ 11:38 PM
Mel - Your Question:
My ex and I have a shared residence order in place from 2010, however this has been tweaked to suit our changing needs and has worked fairly well over time. Recently he has moved in with a new girlfriend, problems have flared up due to my children not liking the arrangements and a smoky house (we don't smoke). They both drink during the evenings and can become argumentative. I have had first hand experience when his girlfriend text me to tell me they are splitting up then continuing to call me every name under the sun. Therefore I took the decision to stop overnight stays to reduce the time the children are exposed to this behaviour. Obviously this hasn't gone down well but dad hasn't contacted me much to see the children. I must add I have made it clear the children can see him every day of they wish buy no overnight stays. He has threatened to take me to court over this but I presume the residence order would not play a big part as we have almost changed it from the original order that was set on 2010. I would like to change the order to a contact order as my son hasn't stayed overnight for three nights a week for the last year and a half. Furthermore my recent concerns have amplified concerns for them whilst they are in his care. If anyone can help or has been through this process I would very much appreciate advice. Thank you

Our Response:
Although you may have changed the court order, the court order still stands and can be reverted back to, please see link here. Therefore, it means you have two options either suggest mediation to your ex in order to try to resolve your current issues, please see link here, or apply back to court to request the order is varied on the back of your ex not keeping to the original agreement. If so, you would have to prove why it is not in the best interests of your children to be in the company of your ex's current partner.
SeparatedDads - 24-Jan-17 @ 10:45 AM
I have joint custody and want to take my daughter away for two weeks her mum is saying no can she do this
B dot - 23-Jan-17 @ 6:05 PM
My ex and I have a shared residence order in place from 2010, however this has been tweaked to suit our changing needs and has worked fairly well over time. Recently he has moved in with a new girlfriend, problems have flared up due to my children not liking the arrangements and a smoky house (we don't smoke). They both drink during the evenings and can become argumentative. I have had first hand experience when his girlfriend text me to tell me they are splitting up then continuing to call me every name under the sun. Therefore I took the decision to stop overnight stays to reduce the time the children are exposed to this behaviour. Obviously this hasn't gone down well but dad hasn't contacted me much to see the children. I must add I have made it clear the children can see him every day of they wish buy no overnight stays. He has threatened to take me to court over this but I presume the residence order would not play a big part as we have almost changed it from the original order that was set on 2010. I would like to change the order to a contact order as my son hasn't stayed overnight for three nights a week for the last year and a half. Furthermore my recent concerns have amplified concerns for them whilst they are in his care. If anyone can help or has been through this process I would very much appreciate advice. Thank you
Mel - 23-Jan-17 @ 11:23 AM
Hi my wife and I split over a year ago and I brought a place local so I could have shared custody which worked really well until I met someone else,she is still with the man who she left me for so I find her reaction a bit strange. I have now been with the same woman for 7 months and she has now moved in with me however when the ex wife found out I left 1 of the boys with her while I took the other one out she went crazy and started threatening to take them off me. She claims that I'm not allowed to leave them with anyone without her permission,is this true as I find it very hard to believe. Both kids love my girlfriend and love being with her and she does everything to help them.
Coxy - 21-Jan-17 @ 10:09 AM
Geldof - Your Question:
Hi,My partner and I split up several years ago. I voluntarily pay her maintenance not via CAS based on the child support calculator, but we have an informal agreement in place to share custody, I actually have the children more often that her due to her shift work. Despite the fact I pay her full maintenance and have the children more than 50% of the time, she still seems to be able to pick and chose when she wants the kids and when not, which does cause stress within my new relationship. is there anything I can do legally (without huge cost) to assist the situation?

Our Response:
Please see link: Mediation: What is it and is it For Me? here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 13-Jan-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi, My partner and I split up several years ago.I voluntarily pay her maintenance not via CAS based on the child support calculator, but we have an informal agreement in place to share custody, I actually have the children more often that her due to her shift work.Despite the fact I pay her full maintenance and have the children more than 50% of the time, she still seems to be able to pick and chose when she wants the kids and when not, which does cause stress within my new relationship.is there anything I can do legally (without huge cost) to assist the situation?
Geldof - 12-Jan-17 @ 9:55 AM
Concerned grandparen - Your Question:
My daughter and her partner split up when their child was 18 months old. They all lived with us until the partner moved out. The partner showed absolutely no interest in his child and preferred to spend his time on his computer (which ultimately caused the split). We have arranged twice weekly visits to our home as we do not trust him to care for the child unsupervised. Since moving out he has cancelled quite a few visits. He is now demanding more acccess, unsupervised which my daughter is not happy about. He has no permanent address and is sofa surfing with friends. If he took my daughter to court would they grant him more access? Worried sick!

Our Response:
Before the matter goes to court, mediation would have to be considered in the first place. However, if your daughter rejects attending mediation and the matter goes to court, after the court has received the application from the other party, the court will usually refer the case to Cafcass, please see link here . This article will tell you what goes into the Cafcass report, which is what the court will generally adhere to.
SeparatedDads - 10-Jan-17 @ 2:08 PM
My daughter and her partner split up when their child was 18 months old. They all lived with us until the partner moved out. The partner showed absolutely no interest in his child and preferred to spend his time on his computer (which ultimately caused the split). We have arranged twice weekly visits to our home as we do not trust him to care for the child unsupervised. Since moving out he has cancelled quite a few visits. He is now demanding more acccess, unsupervised which my daughter is not happy about. He has no permanent address and is sofa surfing with friends. If he took my daughter to court would they grant him more access? Worried sick!
Concerned grandparen - 9-Jan-17 @ 8:29 PM
Chris - Your Question:
I see my girls every other weekend and I work 58 hours a week Monday to Friday do you know if I can claim anything

Our Response:
You cannot claim child maintenance unless you are considered the primary carer. If you see your children alternate weekends, this means you are the non-resident parent and the NRP is considered to be the 'paying parent'.
SeparatedDads - 9-Jan-17 @ 12:51 PM
I see my girls every other weekend and I work 58 hours a week Monday to Friday do you know if I can claim anything
Chris - 8-Jan-17 @ 10:14 PM
neil - Your Question:
My wife walked out on Dec 7 taking my three year old son. I have had no contact except for a couple of texts. I have no idea where they are. Surely she can't do this.what are my options I know it will mean going to family court and getting visiting rights and so forth but surely she just can't dissappear till then

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You can apply for access through the courts and along with the C100 contact order, you can fill in a C4 form which is an application to the court for an order for the disclosure of a child's whereabouts. This means the court will put a trace on your child so your case for access can be heard through the courts. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 4-Jan-17 @ 12:25 PM
My wife walked out on Dec 7 taking my three year old son. I have had no contact except for a couple of texts. I have no idea where they are. Surely she can't do this.what are my options I know it will mean going to family court and getting visiting rights and so forth but surely she just can't dissappear till then
neil - 3-Jan-17 @ 4:09 PM
I already have my two children,8&11 ,from Friday till Monday ,and all holidays,things are ok But my ex is unpredictable, now she is in a new relationship , I pay her well above the CSA In maintenance ,and pay for all clothes school trips etc, I would like to make this legal, Also would this entitle me to a bigger council flat , as we have to all share a small one bed flat and they are a boy and girl,and I don't go through CSA, the money I pay is in cash and bank transfers to her account ,I want to legalise everything ,how do I go about it as I said my ex can be unpredictable and has already reneged on verbal agreement we had about our former property costing me lots of money resulting in me living in a one bed council flat
Robin b - 30-Dec-16 @ 2:18 AM
My ex and I have agreed too joint custody of our three year old son. How does benefit get paid. If I have him 3nites one week and following week 4 We were not married
stew - 27-Dec-16 @ 9:00 PM
I've been with my ex for 7 years, we have a 3 year old son. We are not married as he has spent the last 4 years making excuses why he can't get married. He never helped with our son although we still live together...he doesn't wash dishes if I used them for me or son, he doesn't put clothes except his own away, doesn't wash the bottles, very rarely baths him, only pays for his mortgage and bills, informs me when he needs a nappy change, has made no effort to go to outings or kids birthday's at weekends. I work full time too and leave on time every day to pick our son up from nursery. He was not helping get him ready in the morning and I had to reduce my hours and take a pay cut.He wasn't making any decisions and when I asked for input he just never gives a straight answer. I'm exhausted trying to talk to him about things....When I've tried he either gives me the silent treatment or doesn't quite answer the question. We recently had counselling and he said that marriage is not important and he wasn't really all that bothered about having children but in the past when I had asked him he avoided the questions....I make cakes for friends kids parties as a hobby and he has said I should check with him before accepting orders from people as it impacts on him because he has to put our son to bed and it's his down time from work. I told the counsellor I wanted to move on and move out of his flat and he is now saying our son should live with him and all records, like nursery, doctor should remain at his address as it's the only house our son knows. I'm just not sure what is the right thing to do for my son. I don't want to take his father from him but I can't take much more of his behaviour. I want to move a short distance away as we have already chosen a school and he will start next year. I have many friends with children our sons age who go to that school and all my family live in Australia so don't have family here and his family show no interest in helping at all. He has now stopped including me in all his family events.I was advised I can move out and take Oliver but concerned that he will be upset about not being in the flat anymore and seeing his father every day or the cat. The nursery are currently teaching the children about loving our house. I need help!
Kirsty - 22-Nov-16 @ 2:43 PM
Hi to cut a long story short my ex ran off with my daughter when she was a year old. I hired a private detective to find her I asttempted mediation twice she refused sdsdo I took her to court again she fled in the end the court ordered DWP to disclose her whereabouts. It went to court and as my daughter whom was now 3 had been away from me for so long asndc my ex had led her to believe her new partner wass her dad I had to go through a contact centre had 6 sessions it went really well went back to court and my ex requested more session which I had to pay for I might add. Anyway its been 7 months since the 6 other sessions were ordered the first lot were every other week this time I've seen her 4 times in 7 months as my ex works abroad she cascasnt make herself available apparently so my daughter is left with her current pasrtner or child minder I've submitted a c79 but wondered if I shouldc apply for joint residency as my ex is never around??? I'd love to have my daughter I'm also Kent to have indirect contact and she refuses me
Chris - 19-Nov-16 @ 5:58 PM
My partner and I seperated in Feb for financial problems. Anyway, Iver never had a problem seeing them. But it's always on her terms in her house. She won't let me take them anywhere. She drinks everyday and uses my visits to get wrecked. Whilst drinking isn't a sin, doing it in front of 2 very young children whilst her other children from previous relationships are drinking too (1 very under age) and supplying cigarettes and vodka to half the estates school kids, inviting blokes back whilst I'm there and trying to be violent. In the past her family have stolen from me too. I always go back to see my kids but it's too much now. I need access to them where I don't need to see her. What's my best option.
Hopeful dad - 19-Nov-16 @ 1:13 PM
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