The law on child custody


The law on child custody in the UK is contained mainly in the Children Act 1989 and subsequent amendments to it. The law on child custody has changed over the years in an attempt to encourage and facilitate an ongoing relationship between the child and both of its parents, and with other important people in the child’s life.

One of the major aspects of the law on child custody concerns ‘parental responsibility’. Parental responsibility is different to ‘custody’, and refers to all the rights and duties that parents have towards their children, for example, in making choices regarding their education, religion and medical treatment. Child custody laws in the UK automatically give the mother parental responsibility when the child is born. The father will also receive parental responsibility automatically if he is married to the mother at the time of the birth, or (for children born after December 2003) if the father is registered on the baby’s birth certificate. A natural father can also get parental responsibility by marrying the child's mother; making a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother; registering his name on the birth certificate if no other person was listed or getting a court order. If you are a step-father, you can also get parental responsibility by a Parental Responsibility Agreement or a court order. Other people can also apply to the court for parental responsibility.

The law on child custody in the UK now refers to ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ rather than ‘custody’ and ‘access’. Who the child lives with (residence) and has contact with (contact) is decided either by agreement between the parties, or, if agreement is not possible, by the court. If a court order is made it is then legally enforceable. If you are having difficulties in either coming to an agreement or in getting the other parent to be reliable in accordance with the agreement, you may wish to consider mediation, or approaching a solicitor about your legal options.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on the law on child custody, Caven can put you in touch with local specialist family law / child custody solicitors free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local specialist family law / child custody solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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