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What is a ‘Lives with’ Child Arrangements Order?

The key phrase in separated parents holiday right is ‘parental responsibility’.

A ‘lives with’ Child Arrangements Order specifies where and with whom a child will live and who their primary carer will be. Previously known as Full Residence Orders, these are typically granted after parents separate or divorce, but can also apply to step-parents or other family members, such as grandparents.

How to apply for sole custody

To get sole custody of a child, you’ll either need to seek the other parent’s agreement, or apply for a child arrangements order via the family court.

The first step is to attend a mandatory Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

If you’re unable to reach an agreement via mediation, or there are safeguarding concerns about the child in the care of the other party (which could include violence or abuse from the former partner), you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order in the Family Court.

This legally binding order typically ensures that the non-custodial parent only spends time with the children in a safe and appropriate manner. In cases involving violence or abuse, this might mean supervised contact or communication through letters, emails, telephone, or video calls to ensure the children’s safety.

Applying for sole custody

You apply to the family court for a child arrangements order by completing and submitting a C100 form which outlines the details of the application, including reasons for seeking sole custody and proposed arrangements for the child.

Additionally, if there are concerns about harm or abuse, a C1A form should also be filled out and examples given of the concerning behaviour.

After applying to change joint custody to sole custody, the court will review the application and schedule hearings to assess the case.

It’s essential to provide evidence and demonstrate that sole custody is in the child’s best interests, highlighting factors such as the parent’s ability to provide care and ensure the child’s welfare.

Seeking legal advice and representation throughout the process can help navigate the complexities of family law and increase the chances of a favourable outcome.

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Common questions about sole custody

Common questions about sole custody

  • How do I get sole custody of my child in the UK?

    The court adopts the ‘No Order Principle’ which means they will only make an order if this would be better than making no order at all. So, if you do have genuine concerns about your child in the care of the other parent, then filing a C1A noting these concerns is extremely important and obtaining legal advice is highly recommended.

    To get sole custody of your child, you must get a legally binding Child Arrangements Order, with the support of a child law specialist.

    In child custody cases where parents cannot agree personally, or through mediation or lawyer-led negotiation, the carer seeking sole custody must submit a child arrangements application to the family court.

    In cases such as this, a judge will determine whether to grant sole custody. Custody court hearings typically involve:

    First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA): The initial court hearing aims to identify the issues and encourage an agreement between the parents.

    Further Hearings: If an agreement is not reached, additional hearings may be scheduled to allow both parents to present evidence and arguments these are usually known as Dispute Resolution Appointments.

    Final Hearing: A judge will make a final decision based on the child’s best interests, considering factors such as the child’s needs, the capability of each parent, and the child’s welfare.

    Seeking the support of a child law specialist ensures the order’s legality and provides expert guidance throughout the process.

  • What does sole custody mean for the other parent?

    Sole custody of a child typically means that one parent has primary legal custody of the child, and the other parent can have limited or no decision-making authority or custody rights. Whilst both parties will retain Parental Responsibility (unless revoked by the court) the non-resident parent will need the other parents’ permission to do certain things, for example to go abroad on holiday with the child.

    However, it’s important to note that even in cases of sole custody, the non-custodial parent usually retains certain legal rights, such as access to the child’s school and medical records, and the right to be informed about major decisions affecting the child.

  • What are the grounds for sole custody?

    Grounds for seeking sole custody, now termed a ‘lives with’ Child Arrangements Order, revolve around ensuring the child’s welfare and safety and any decision is made based on what the court deems is in the child’s best interests.

    The family court typically favours shared care arrangements with both parents whenever possible. However, if there is evidence indicating that one parent poses a risk to the safety and wellbeing of the child, the court may grant sole custody.

  • Will the court grant sole custody?

    When deciding, the court relies on the Welfare Checklist:

    • Child’s Wishes and Feelings: Considered based on age, understanding, and maturity (usually for children aged nine and above).
    • Child’s Needs: Physical, emotional, and educational.
    • Impact of Change: Potential effects of any change in circumstances.
    • Child’s Characteristics: Age, sex, background, and any other relevant factors.
    • Risk of Harm: Any harm the child has suffered or may suffer.
    • Parental Capability: Ability of each parent to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs.
    • Court’s Powers: Utilisation of powers under the Children Act within the proceedings.

    This checklist is crucial for the family court when considering applications for child arrangements, including requests for sole custody.

  • Why seek a sole custody agreement?

    Common reasons for obtaining sole custody include situations where one parent poses a risk to the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing due to abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or untreated mental health issues.

    Additionally, if one parent is unable or unwilling to fulfil parental responsibilities or provide a stable environment, sole custody may be sought to prioritise the child’s best interests.

  • If I have sole custody, do I have to allow visitation?

    Unless there are safety concerns or court orders stating otherwise, the visitation rights outlined in the child arrangements order should be granted to the non-custodial parent.

    Compliance with these orders is essential to maintain the child’s relationship with the other parent, but modifications can be sought with legal guidance if needed.

  • Sole custody vs full custody

    ‘Sole custody’ and ‘full custody’ are often used interchangeably to refer to a situation where one parent has primary custody of the child.

    However, in some cases, ‘full custody’ may imply that the custodial parent has absolute decision-making authority without input from the other parent, whereas ‘sole custody’ may still allow for some level of involvement or visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.

    Consulting with a family lawyer will provide clarity on these distinctions and help determine the best child arrangement for your situation.

  • How much does it cost to go to court for child custody in the UK?

    The UK family court fee for submitting a Child Arrangements Order application is £255.

    Other cost considerations include legal fees for hiring a family lawyer. Costs will vary depending on how complex the case is and whether the other parent disputes the application.

  • Can I apply for sole parental responsibility?

    If you’re not the child’s mother, you can seek parental responsibility through the family court.

    This can be done if you have a connection to the child, such as being their father, step-parent, or second female parent. It’s also possible for more than two individuals to share parental responsibility for the same child.

Solicitors for sole custody cases

We understand that dealing with child custody issues, regardless of the circumstances, can be an incredibly challenging and emotional experience. Whether your situation is amicable or contentious, seeking sole custody involves navigating a unique set of complex challenges.

At Stowe Family Law, our experts in sole custody cases draw upon their extensive experience in handling situations like yours. Your custody solicitor will guide you through the entire process with care, empathy, and reassurance.

Stowe Support
Click here for a range of tools to help you through your relationship breakdown and beyond.

Liza is based in our Winchester & Southampton offices and is experienced in divorce, financial matters, and legal issues issues involving children.

Date last reviewed: 26/06/2024


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