The breakdown of a relationship can be incredibly emotionally and mentally taxing, particularly when there are children involved. At such a difficult time, the last thing most people want to do is consider that the law might make it difficult for them to see their children.
The good news is that most separating couples manage to negotiate mutually agreeable solutions concerning their children without involving the courts. Yet forewarned is forearmed and understanding your legal position at the outset can empower you to make the best decision for yourself and your family while minimizing the disruption for your children.
While many fathers might fear that societal expectations around the importance of motherhood may hinder them in frequently seeing or living with their children, recent statistics indicate that such opinions are increasingly a thing of the past. A YouGov survey revealed that 95% of people agree that both parents should share a responsibility for bringing up children and 84% of people believe that both parents should have equal rights over the custody of their children (with 9% saying that mothers should have the most rights to custody over their kids). However, if you’re a father who is fighting with their former partner over child custody that 9% figure is likely still very concerning and highlights how important it can be to seek legal advice to ensure you’re in the best position.
In the UK, child family law determines who should be responsible for the care and charge of a child, after divorce or separation. Although where a child lives after a parental break-up is usually referred to as ‘custody’ in everyday speech, the law now refers to this as a child’s residence.
In the many cases, parents’ preference is for joint residency, which enables the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. This option also allows both parents to participate in any decision making which may affect the child. However, if parents are unable to decide amicably on what living arrangement is best for their child even after mediation meetings then the courts will decide what solution would be in the child’s best interest. Even if one parent is granted a sole residency order, the other parent can be granted a contact order which specifies the contact with the child that the non-resident parent is legally entitled to have. Except in exceptional circumstances, once a child turns 16 such orders expire and it is up to the child to determine their residence and degree of contact.
An important first step in this process is determining if you have ‘Parental Responsibility’. While having Parental Responsibility does not entitle you to residency, it is usually essential in acquiring it. If you are the child’s birth mother or you were married to the child’s mother then you automatically have Parental Responsibility. Unmarried father’s who were named on their child’s birth certificate from 1 December 2003 also automatically have Parental Responsibility but if your child was born before this or you were never listed on your child’s birth certificate then you will either need to re-register the certificate or have a court grant you Parental Responsibility.
Seeking out all the details and quirks of child family law can easily be overwhelming, especially while you’re also juggling all the complications of a fresh separation. Yet the legal specifics around seeing or living with your children are likely by far the most important outcome of your divorce. It’s important to get the most up to date information but you might be hesitant to hire a lawyer until it’s beyond clear that an amicable solution can be reached. Using LexSnap can be an excellent solution to this problem through providing affordable access to pre-packaged legal advice given by some of the UK’s top family lawyers without forcing you to hire a lawyer before you’re sure that it’s the best solution for your family.