According to the UK Children’s Act 1989, joint residency is a legal decision regarding the custody and/or residence of children of separated parents.

Shared custody does not always indicate a 50/50 split between the parents, but merely that both parents have the child living with them at some point. Children may live with one parent on weekends and holidays and the other the rest of the time.

Joint custody decisions will be made with the child’s best interests at heart. Whenever possible, it is important to ensure that the child’s routine is not disrupted. It is generally recognized that joint custody is beneficial for the child to have continued contact with both parents and to remain active in their child’s life. However, it is not without its challenges.

Voluntary agreement regarding joint custody

Parenting arrangements determine the child’s living arrangements and the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. It may be reached through informal discussions and negotiations between both parties or through mediation or the courts if an agreement cannot be reached independently.

Informal negotiations

To start, you should consider deciding between yourselves. It might be possible to write a parenting plan. This will cover important details such as where the child will live, who will pay for what, how long they will spend in each home, and other day-to-day arrangements. This agreement is not in itself legally binding. Those seeking joint custody should speak with a family law specialist if they wish to make the arrangement legally binding. The solicitor you hire will be able to draft the Consent Order which both you and your ex-partner will need to sign. Both parties will be able to enforce this document, which contains the same information as the parenting plan. 

“What happens if we cannot come to an agreement?”

You may ask the courts to decide if an agreement cannot be reached. A ‘Directions Hearing’ is the first step, which includes a family court advisor to determine what aspects you are or are not able to agree upon.

Unless there are extreme factors regarding your circumstances, the courts will expect you to attend one Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), before accepting your application for a hearing. They will encourage you to always think about what is best for the child.

“What is the court decision based on?”

When determining where the child should live and who should have custody, the child’s welfare will be of the utmost importance. If your child is over the age of 12, they may be asked about their feelings regarding the situation. This could have a great impact on what the decision would be.

How we can help

We understand the importance of your child’s safety and will work hard to ensure that their best interests are the number-one priority when decisions are made. For more information on the complex aspects of family law, contact us on 01983 632006 or email