After divorce or separation, there are certain child-custody arrangements (usually called “residence arrangements”) that have to be finalised by the partners. These arrangements relate to children’s safety and security, financial arrangements and deciding where they will live and with which parent.
If the parents are able to come to an agreement themselves regarding these, there is no need for them to go to the court for a hearing. They can simply fill in a legally-enforceable form called a “Statement of Arrangements for the Children” (Form D8A) when they initiate their divorce.
If the parents are unable to come to an agreement themselves, then they have to approach the court for a hearing. The judge will not finalise their divorce until acceptable arrangements have been made regarding children. Another option is to involve a mediator who will help the parents reach an agreement.
Then the only option is to ask the court to make an order. For this purpose, there is a standard form (called C1) that has to be completed and submitted to the appropriate court. With this form, parents can seek court orders related to the care of children under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. Orders that can be given by the court include: a Contact Order (whom the children are allowed to see), a Residence Order (whom the children should live with), a Prohibited Steps Order (prevents a child’s parents from taking certain steps), a Specific Issue Order (how a particular matter related to children should be handled) and a Parental Responsibility Order. The court can also make orders related to financial support as well as care orders or emergency protection orders in case the child is being abused or is at a risk of harm by a parent.
If this is the case, then you should bring it to the court’s attention when you complete the C1 form. To give details of domestic abuse that may have a bearing on child safety, you have to fill in an additional form, called C1A (“Supplemental Information Form”).
You can apply for a custody order in the following cases:
  • The existing parent with custody has a drug or alcohol problem that they cannot get under control
  • You have proof that the child is being neglected repeatedly (insufficient food, left unsupervised, left in the presence of someone who is abusive or neglectful)
  • You have proof that the parent is a risk to the child (charged with risk of injury)
  • You have proof that the parent is physically or sexually abusive
  • You have proof that the parent left the child with someone who is physically or sexually abusive
  • If the parent with existing custody is living or married to a registered sex offender (depending on circumstances)
Basically, the courts do not like to sever ties with a parent unless there are good reasons that can be substantiated.
Family courts have a principle called “presumption of contact,” under which they have to do everything possible for biological parents to see their children.
You can apply for a Contact Order if you are:
  • a parent or guardian of the child
  • a partner of one of the parents (whether they are married, in a civil union or in a de facto relationship) if they’ve been sharing day-to-day care of the child
  • any member of the child’s family, or other family group who gets the court’s permission to apply
  • anyone else who gets the court’s permission to apply
Certain other people can apply if one of the parents:
  • has died
  • is stopped by the court from having contact with the child, or
  • is not trying to have any contact with the child
The other people who can apply in those cases are as follows:
  • the mother or father of the parent who is dead or who is not having contact with the child
  • a brother or sister of that parent
  • a brother or sister of the child
The Judge will take the following into consideration:
  • What the child wishes, if he or she is old enough to make any kind of decision
  • The educational and emotional needs of the child
  • Whether there is any risk of harm to the child
  • Whether you are capable of meeting the child’s needs during contact
These might seem weighted against you, but the sole concern is for the welfare of the child. In the vast majority of cases of Contact Orders applications (over 90%) are granted.
Parental responsibility includes all rights, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child. People with parental responsibility for a child have legal powers to take all decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as medical treatment and education. Parental responsibility comes to an end automatically when the child reaches 18 years of age.
For this, one has to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This is an agreement in which the child’s mother and father agree that the father has parental responsibility or that a step parent has parental responsibility for the child. The form C(PRA1) or form C(PRA2) are also used for this purpose.
You can apply for a parental responsibility agreement in the following cases:
  • Unmarried couples who have children together (Please note, the father of any child born before December 2003, who is not married to the mother does not have parent responsibility, even if the relationship is ongoing. The father of any child born after December 2003, who does not have his name on the child’s birth certificate, does not have parental responsibility)
  • Unmarried couples where one is the biological parent (Please note, if you have a former partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she would have to agree to this)
  • Civil partnerships where only one party is the biological parent (Please note, if you have a former partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she would have to agree to this)
  • Married couples where only one party is the biological parent (Please note, if you have a former partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she would have to agree to this.
*Please note, parental responsibility agreements have a different procedure to all other orders and applications. Once you have compiled your questionnaire and we have produced all of your documentation, you simply have to check and sign the paperwork, and attend your local county court with both parties’ passports and the child(ren)’s birth certificates.
You can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order in the following cases:
  • Unmarried couples where one is the biological parent, and the non-biological parent has lived with the child(ren) for three out of the last five years and in the three months leading up to your application (Please note, if you have an ex partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she does not have to agree to this)
  • Civil partnerships where only one party is the biological parent, and the non-biological parent has lived with the child(ren) for three out of the last five years and in the three months leading up to your application (Please note, if you have an ex partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she does not have to agree to this)
  • Married couples where only one party is the biological parent, and the non-biological parent has lived with the child(ren) for three out of the last five years and in the three months leading up to your application (Please note, if you have an ex partner who does have parental responsibility, he or she does not have to agree to this)
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If you need clarification on any of the above, please call our customer care phone line on 0800 8405 437 for assistance on assessing the validity of your application. Custody Action UK is here to help you from the initial assessment stage, right through to the official submission of your application. We are dedicated to making the Child Custody process as easy and as stress free as possible.

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