It is now the norm for separated parents to share the care of their children, with each parent having the children living with them part of the time. In most cases, such arrangements can be made voluntarily between the parents, but in some cases it may be necessary for seek the help of a Court to decide how care should be shared.
In either situation, it is important to have expert legal advice to ensure you are making the best arrangements for your children while protecting your rights as a parent.
At Thornton Jones, our family law team has extensive experience of helping parents to make shared care arrangements. We have strong expertise in alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, collaborative law and arbitration, so can give you the best chance of reaching an amicable agreement.
Should court proceedings be required, we can assist with preparing your case and make sure you have the best possible representation, so you have the strongest chance of getting the right outcome for your children and for you.
Dealing with these complicated and emotive matters can seem very daunting, with the future wellbeing of your children at stake. Our shared care solicitors understand this and will work closely with you to make sure you fully understand your options and your parental rights, so you can make the best decision for your family.
Talk to us about making shared care arrangements
Have a quick question or want to request a call back? Use our online enquiry form.
How our family lawyers can help you make shared care arrangements
Mediation involves you and your former partner having a series of meetings with a qualified mediator who acts as a neutral third party to help you agree shared care arrangements.
Mediation is typically the fastest, least costly way to deal with shared care arrangements. It keeps the decision in your hands and the details private while keeping conflict to a minimum.
Find out more about our divorce mediation services.
Collaborative law involves a series of four-way ‘round the table’ meetings between you, your former partner and your respective lawyers (who must be trained collaborative lawyers). You will work together to negotiate shared care arrangements for your children.
Collaborative law can be a good choice where there are complex matters to resolve as you have your own lawyer with you to advise you on any tricky issues. You can also have other professional experts sit in on the process if required.
Find out more about our collaborative law services.
Arbitration can be a fast, effective way of deciding shared care arrangements where you cannot agree but wish to avoid court proceedings. You can ask a trained arbitrator to look at the issues and make a decision, which both parents must agree to abide by in advance.
We are one of the few law firms to have a trained arbitrator, Clare Thornton, in house. Arbitration is generally faster and less costly than court proceedings and can avoid some of the stress and additional conflict that such proceedings can bring.
Find out more about our family arbitration services.
Applying to a Family Court for a Child Arrangements Order
In those rare cases where court action is required to make shared care arrangements for children, we will advise you on the legal process and likely costs involved, then work with you to make sure you have the best possible representation for your hearing.
Our shared care arrangements fees
We are able to offer fixed fees for some matters – such as individual sessions of mediation – giving you certainty over the costs involved in making shared care arrangements.
Where you need ongoing legal support, we will charge a set hourly rate of between £100-£250+VAT based on the legal of legal expertise required to deal effectively with your requirements.
Find out more about our fees and funding options.
Shared care arrangements FAQs
Is shared care the same thing as ‘joint custody’ of children?
Yes. The terminology around this issue has changed over the years and, while people still commonly talk about ‘child custody’ and ‘joint custody’, child arrangements and shared care are now the preferred terms. You may also hear people use terms such as ‘child residence’ and ‘live with’ orders.
All of these ultimately refer to the same thing – where your child will live and who their primary carer or carers will be.
Do children have to split their time 50:50 between their parents?
No and, in practice, this rarely makes sense. Your first priority (and the priority of the Court if it becomes involved) should be to get in place the best arrangements for your child’s welfare.
Exactly how children’s time should be split between their parents will depend on the situation. For example, if both parents live close to the children’s school, they could potentially spend some weekdays with each parent. However, if one parent lives too far away from the school, it may make more sense for that parent to have the children at the weekends.
In some cases, parents will have the children on alternate weeks and in other cases they will agree a set pattern of days to have the children e.g. Parent A has the children Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings, while Parent B has them Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturday evenings and Sundays.
Ultimately, it’s about working out what makes the most sense for your children and for you. It is also important to accept that there may need to be some flexibility around these arrangements to deal with specific issues, such as family holidays, birthdays, Christmas and other events.
How will a Court decide shared care arrangements?
If a Court is called upon to decide how a child’s time should be divided between their parents, the child’s welfare will be the Court’s primary concern. Various factors will be considered by the Court when coming to its decision, including:
- The child’s needs
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
- The likely impact on the child of any change in their living arrangements and other care arrangements
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The wishes and feelings of the child
Can you get joint custody of a child if you weren’t married?
Your rights as a parent do not depend on whether you were married but rather on whether you have parental responsibility for the child. This means you have the legal right to be involved in decisions about a child, as well as a legal duty to care for them.
Who has parental responsibility, and therefore the right to apply for joint custody, will depend on the circumstances. The following people will have parental responsibility for a child:
- The child’s birth mother (unless they have given up parental responsibility e.g. by placing the child for adoption)
- The spouse/civil partner of the birth mother (if they were married to/in a civil partnership with the birth mother at the time of the child’s birth or at the time fertility treatment was undertaken)
- The child’s biological father (if he was listed on the birth certificate or was married to the birth mother when the child was conceived, at the time of their birth or at any point afterwards)
- Adoptive parents
You can also get parental responsibility by making a parental responsibility agreement with whoever currently has parental responsibility for a child or by applying to a Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
Why choose Thornton Jones for making shared care arrangements?
With decades of experience and a high level of specialist expertise and training, we can offer a range of skills for dealing with child arrangements that most other law firms in the region simply cannot match.
Our family law team includes five members of family law network Resolution – Jane Auty, Steven Eldridge, Amanda Gait, Clare Thornton and Shelley Wales. Resolution members make a commitment to removing conflict from family law, so this reflects our expertise in taking a non-confrontational approach to child arrangements.
Amanda Gait, Clare Thornton and Shelley Wales are all qualified mediators. Clare, Amanda and Jane Auty are trained collaborative lawyers and Clare is one of only a handful of qualified family arbitrators in the country. This means that, whatever your circumstances, we can usually find a non-confrontational way to deal with shared care arrangements.
We are accredited by the Law Society for our expertise in Family Law, providing assurance that we offer high quality expertise and service for these matters.
Contact our shared care arrangements solicitors in West Yorkshire
Have a quick question or want to request a call back? Use our online enquiry form.