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Making child custody arrangements following a relationship breakdown

We know that sorting out child arrangements can be extremely difficult when you are going through the trauma of a relationship breakdown.

However, making suitable arrangements for your children is essential. Our family law solicitors can help you to achieve this with as little stress and expense as possible.

If a married couple split, both partners will have parental responsibility for their children. In the case of an unmarried couple, only the mother has automatic rights in respect to the children.

However, unmarried fathers can obtain parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born on, or after, 15th April 2002. They can also acquire parental responsibility if they have jointly signed a Parental Responsibility Agreement, which is something that can be done at any stage during a relationship or separation.

Regardless of who has parental responsibility, the non-residential parent are required to contribute to the financial support of their children. This can be done by way of a private arrangement between parties or by seeking the assistance of the Child Maintenance Service (previously the Child Support Agency or CSA).

Child custody law determines who should be responsible for the care and charge of a child, after divorce or separation. The term custody is now more commonly referred to as residency – indicating where the children’s main residence is, following a parental break up.

McGale Kelly family law solicitor Aoife Laird said, “In the many cases, parents preference is for joint custody (or residency), which enables the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. This option also allows both parents to participate in any decision making which may affect the child.

“However, if parents are unable to decide amicably on what living arrangement is best for their child, the courts will decide on their behalf. Prior to making a court application, the Court now expects parties to have attempted other forms of resolution. This is checked by the Court when the application is first listed in Court. The Court expects solicitors correspondence to have been sent in an attempt to reach agreement and also Family Mediation with FMNI which is a free service, provided court proceedings have not been issued. The only exception to this rule is where a court case is urgently required or where parties cannot mediate due to the existence of a restraining order/NMO or violence within the relationship.

“It is also important to note, that if court proceedings are required, the court will not be concerned with what the parents want; the court will be primarily concerned with what is in the child’s best interests. When a child is old enough to have their own views taken into account, a court will listen to these also. Often this can be upsetting for parents, particularly where a child is expressing a different wish regarding residence or contact to that of the parent.”


We appreciate that contacting a family lawyer to discuss divorce, separation or child custody can be daunting. We have many years of experience and built a strong reputation for providing clear advice that is aimed at helping you through your difficult time. Speaking to our Solicitors will help to bring clarity about your situation.

Whatever the problem we will provide a sympathetic and practical approach to help you resolve the situation and move on with your life.

These are complex issues and will involve huge personal and financial decisions to be made. We can provide expert legal advice in the areas of divorce, separation, child contact and residence disputes.

Contact our friendly and trusted solicitors today.

For further information please give us a call on 028 8224 3621 or email: info@mcgalekelly.co.uk

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