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JR Jones Solicitors Birmingham
solicitors Birmingham

Children – Living Arrangements (Previously called Child Residence and Contact)

When a couple divorce or separate, the needs of the children should always be of paramount importance. From which parent the child will live with (sometimes called child custody), what contact they will have with the contact usother parent, to financial maintenance; we are specialists in dealing with matters involving children and are here to help you.

In England, the laws relating to children are based on what is in their best interests, rather than the best interests of the parents. The legal system prefers voluntary agreements between parents rather than Court imposed settlements. It is widely accepted that voluntary agreements are much more likely to succeed in the long term. The Courts will generally only become involved if both parents are unable to reach a suitable agreement.

Who will the child will live with?

Who the child will live with is sometimes referred to as ‘child custody’ or ‘child residence’. It is of critical importance for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.

It is common for the children to live primarily with one parent and the other will have ‘contact’ at regular agreed intervals, such as weekends. We will help you to negotiate the most suitable arrangements for your family.

Factors which will influence the arrangements, include:

  • The day to day availability of the parents (in light of work and other commitments)
  • The wishes of the children themselves
  • Whether one party has historically undertaken more of the day to day care than the other

It is possible for parents to have shared residence of the children. For this to work it has to be practical for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive and unsettling for them.

Sadly, disputes between parents over arrangements for children are quite common.

Family Mediation

Following a separation or divorce, both parents will be encouraged to try and reach a compromise on the issues in dispute and it is often possible to seek the assistance of a trained Family Mediator, who can help the parties to discuss their views openly and try and reach agreement between themselves.

We will advise you as to whether Family Mediation is a suitable option for you and we can help arrange Mediation for you where required.

What contact will the non-resident parent have with the children?

The law in England, in the vast majority of cases, accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents, unless special circumstances apply.

It is of key importance to work out a routine for contact with your children which is regular and which suits the needs of both parents and the children. There are no specific rules in law as to how much contact is allowed.

It is up to the parents to agree a routine that suits the children and them. In our experience, agreements reached by the parents work better than those imposed by the Court.

If you are not able to reach a compromise with the other parent then the Courts can impose a Living Arrangements Order which will specify exactly what contact the non-resident parent will have with the children.

What if an agreement cannot be reached by negotiation?

If negotiations between the parents are not effective then Family Mediation is the next option. If Family Mediation does not work then it may be necessary to go to Court to get the issues involving the children resolved. A Judge can then make a Living Arrangement Order.

What is a Living Arrangements Order?

A Living Arrangements Order (replaces the previous Residence Order and Contact Order) specifies who the children will live with once the separation is made permanent. It is possible to have a shared Living arrangements Order and the Order will specify the periods that the children will spend with each parent.

A Living Arrangements Order will also specify how often the non-resident parent will see the children. It will clearly outline when and for how long contact will take place.