Family law

Children's law experts

The family court puts the needs and welfare of children first at all times, making child arrangement orders to give sole custody to one parent. Our family law experts are here to help if you need to apply for a court order.

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Can I get sole custody of my child?

The phrases sole custody and joint custody have now been superseded by the legal term ''child arrangements'. So if you have been thinking in terms of having sole custody, the current terminology would describe that you having a "lives with" order in your favour.

Unless the other parent agrees that the children can live with you, you would need to seek a child arrangements order in the family court that specified this course of action.

However, the starting point for all child arrangements between separated couples is that the care of the child should be shared with both parents, unless this would be likely to adversely affect the child's welfare.

Naturally, there may be reasons why you think that you having 'sole custody' would be best for the child or children, but the law requires that, in the first instance, you try to arrange this amicably with the other parent.

How do I get sole custody through a court order?

Before you can apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, you first have to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). 

If mediation isn't working, either because you can't agree or because your former partner is violent or abusive, we may then be able to help you to seek a Child Arrangements Order in the Family Court.

This is a court order that is legally binding on both parents and will ensure that your partner spends time with the children that is considered safe and appropriate.

In the case of a violent or abusive parent, this might mean spending no time with the children alone, supervised contact, or communication only by letter, email, telephone or Skype call.

Will a court give me sole custody?

The family court prefers the care of the children to be shared with both parents whenever possible, and will generally make that the default option, unless there is evidence that one parent represents a danger to the safety and wellbeing of a child. In making decisions they rely on the following Welfare Checklist:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account their age, level of understanding and maturity. Most courts regard children of nine years and older as having an understanding of their circumstances.
  • The child's physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The likely effect that any change of circumstances will have on the child.
  • The child's age, sex, background and any other characteristics that the court thinks are relevant.
  • Any harm that the child may have suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • How capable the parties in the case are of meeting the child's emotional and physical needs.
  • All of the powers that the court has under the Children Act, which could be used within the proceedings.

This checklist is very important to the family court and will always be referred to when considering applications for a child arrangements order, including when one parent seeks sole custody of a child or children.

If you would like to speak to an experienced family law expert about sole custody and how it relates to child arrangements orders, please call 0800 780 2730 or contact us online today and we will call you.

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