Child Custody Arrangements in the UK: Factors to Consider

Some of the legal issues associated with divorce and family law include child custody, prenuptial agreements, and family mediation. According to, child custody law determines which parent is to be responsible for the care and charge of children following a parental breakup.

Child custody can also be called residency as it refers to the child’s main residence.

Child Custody Arrangements

Most child custody arrangements after a divorce or a separation are made by the parents. Parents are encouraged to come to a decision and to take their child’s best interests into consideration without court involvement. As part of the divorce process, parents are asked to file a document that lists their children and the agreed upon living arrangements of each child.

However, in instances where an agreement cannot be reached, the court will decide on the parents’ behalf. The court considers the welfare and best interests of the children the paramount considerations for residency.

Most child custody arrangements in court are settled amicably, with joint residency being the usual outcome.

Factors to Consider

a child holding their parent's hand

Courts take in several factors when reaching a decision on the parameters of child custody. Joint residency refers to a situation where children stay with each parent at different allotted times. It is often the preferred solution as it is usually able to serve the best interests of the children.

Access and Maintenance Payments – This refers to the weekly or monthly payments that the non-resident parent provides to each child. Parents can come to an agreement or wait for the court to make the determination on the amount that the non-resident parent must provide for the upbringing of the children.

Individual Assessments – In disputed cases, each parent is individually assessed before the court comes to a decision. The court looks into their dispositions, abilities, and readiness to look after their children on their own.

Bias towards Mothers – The presumption that babies are better off left with the mother and not the father is related to the benefits of breastfeeding and maternal closeness. There is no such principle or presumption with children of other ages. Mothers and fathers are assessed with equal footing as there is no initial belief about which parent will be better at bringing up the child. Still, in most cases, children with separated parents are more likely to stay with their mother than with their father.

Employment – Courts also consider the gainful employment and jobs of parents as it affects the residency of children. They may prefer granting joint or shared residence so both parents can continue their employment while raising their children. This is because a working parent who is granted sole residency may have to give up their job in order to maintain their financial status with a child in their home.

Wishes of the Child – The courts take children’s wishes and feelings on living arrangements into account. However, the wishes of a child below the age of 11 often do not carry a heavyweight as they are not considered fully able to understand the situation and the gravity of making such a decision. Children are legally able to decide with whom they wish to live by the age of 16, unless the court issues a residence order that specifies living arrangements.

The courts make determinations on child custody and living arrangements depending on the best interests of a child and on a case-by-case basis.