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When children are involved in a divorce or separation, deciding on where the children should live and who has access to spend time with them (and when), can be relatively simple when it is possible to come to an agreement outside of Court.

However, making decisions about custody and child access arrangements should not be taken lightly.  Wanting to spend all week with your children and actually being able to accommodate this are two very different things, so even if you do come to a decision relatively easily, there are many considerations to be taken into account to ensure that you’re making the right one.

At the end of the day, a separation or divorce is difficult enough for children without uprooting them or changing their routines more than is completely necessary, so getting custody arrangements right first time can have huge benefits to their wellbeing.

Custody considerations

The types of things that you will need to consider when deciding where your child or children live and when, include:

  • Do you want to have sole care of your child/children and do you have a good reason for why the other parent shouldn’t have access to them?  If their safety is not compromised, will not staying with their other parent make them unhappy?
  • Do you have enough room for your child or children where you live?  They’ll need space for their belongings as well as somewhere to sleep
  • Will you be able to get your child/children to and from school or childcare each day?
  • Do you have friends and relatives nearby that you can trust to help with looking after your child/children if there is an emergency or if you’re stuck at work?
  • If you have more than one child, do they have different needs and commitments that you will need to cater for?
  • Will you be available for them on a day-to-day basis, for example if they are ill and need picking up from school?
  • How much time will you be able to spend with your children when you are together?
  • Do your child/children’s friends live near to you?
  • Can you afford to look after your children on a full or even part time basis?
  • Do you live close enough to your ex-partner that sharing care of your child/children is feasible?  Or will you all have to spend a long time travelling?
  • Who lives nearer to your child’s/children’s school?  Would it make more sense for them to have residence during the week?
  • Can you be flexible?  If one of you needs to be at a meeting or family event in the evening, will you be able to make it work so that the other can be there to look after the children on an adhoc basis?
  • If you are able to be flexible, try not to take advantage of this too much by making sudden changes to plans.  This could be disappointing for your child/children but also annoying for the other parent to have to drop their plans for your sake, especially if it’s a regular occurrence
  • Can you plan ahead so that you and your child have a routine of where they are staying and when?
  • Consider special dates like Christmas and birthdays and if possible, take it in turns for having access to your child/children to avoid arguments and make access fair

Shared residence or shared care considerations

If you decide that sharing care of your children is the best option for you and for them, then there are further considerations that you should take into account when deciding how this will work best:

Recording custody arrangements

If you are able to make decisions about custody out of Court, it is still best to make a written record of what has been agreed.  Whilst a written record alone is not legally binding, a child arrangement order will be.  To have one of these put in place, speak to one of our specialist family lawyers at any of our offices below:

Alternatively, email us and we will give you a call back.