Child residence, child contact and child maintenance
At a time of family breakdown, the needs of any children involved are of the highest importance. Our experienced family solicitors will work with you to ensure that your children come through the process with the most stable arrangements for residence and contact achievable.
The law in relation to children is clearly based on what is in their best interests, as distinct from the interests of the parents.
In practice the law prefers voluntary agreements between parents rather than court imposed settlements as it feels that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long run. The courts will only usually become involved if both parents are unable to reach a suitable compromise. If a case does get to court then the courts can impose a ‘residence order’ or a ‘contact order’ which set out who the child will live with and when they will have contact with the other parent.
What is commonly referred to as ‘child custody’ generally means ‘child residence’ or with whom the child will live. It is of overriding importance for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.
In most cases the children will live primarily with one parent and the other will have ‘contact’ at regular, pre-arranged intervals. Who they will live with and where will be negotiated with the help of your solicitor. Many factors will influence the outcome including whether one party has historically undertaken more of the day to day care than the other, the wishes and feelings of the children themselves (considered in light of their age and understanding), the likely impact of any change and who is better placed to be able to meet the ongoing future needs of the children.
In some cases 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.
The law generally accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents.
Your solicitor will help you to work out the most suitable arrangements for child contact which can include visits to the child at home, taking the child to the other parents home, overnight stays and holidays.
Generally, arrangements can be worked out by a process of negotiation between the parents. If you are not able to reach a compromise then the courts can impose a contact order which specifies exactly what contact the non resident parent will have.
In some cases one parent will try and use child contact as a bargaining chip, for example in cases of non payment of maintenance. These are two separate issues and contact with a child will not be based on whether or not maintenance payments are made.
All parents have a responsibility to provide financial support to their children, regardless of whether or not they have contact with them.
Child maintenance is the payment of a regular sum of money to support the child’s living costs and is payable by the parent who the child is not resident with. (In cases of shared residence the arrangements may differ.)
Child maintenance can be arranged by agreement between both parents or through the Child Support Agency (CSA) using a set formula.
The amount agreed will take into account any time the child spends with the non resident parent. For example if they stay overnight one night a week then the amount of maintenance can be reduced to reflect this.
Contact us to speak to one of our family lawyers for more advice.
Our team of family solicitors comprises Resolution Accredited Specialists, Collaboratively trained lawyers and members of the Law Society's Children Panel.