0345 604 4911

Child Custody Solicitors

"A class act"

Legal 500, 2018/19

"A class act"

Legal 500, 2018/19

If you and your partner decide to divorce, the issue of who has custody of your children can be a difficult one to resolve. Our expert child custody solicitors can help you reach an agreement as quickly as possible, minimising stress and uncertainty for your children.

Issues you and your partner may have to resolve include:

  • Where children should live
  • When children should see you and your ex-partner, and when they should stay with each of you
  • Financial arrangements that mean both of you are contributing to the cost of bringing up your children in a fair way
  • A potential change of the children's names and what school they go to

Our child custody lawyers can work with you and your partner on a collaborative divorce, or through mediation services, to help you both come to an agreement about where your children should live and spend time.

The law requires that you and your partner try to decide child residency issues yourselves before a case goes to court. If you can’t agree, we can help you through the court process where a judge will decide on custody issues.

The term 'custody' is no longer used by the court, and instead courts grant a Child Arrangements Order, governing where a child lives and spends time. The courts now try to ensure that both parents have a say in the care and upbringing of their children, where it is appropriate.

We understand that this is a highly emotive subject, and that it can cause tensions between separating couples. With years of experience in child custody cases as one of the UK's leading family law teams, we'll make sure that your wishes and concerns are fully considered at every stage of the process.

To talk to us about the various child custody services we offer, please contact us for a consultation with one of our team. You can call us on 0345 604 4911, or you can contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


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  • Ros Bever
  • National Head of Family Law
Meet the team
Martin Loxley
Martin Loxley Sheffield

"Absolutely fantastic", "nationally known, pragmatic, and a hard negotiator."

Legal 500, 2016
Child Custody - More Information
    • Will I Have To Go To Court
    • Where possible, it’s better to maintain a good working relationship with your former partner for the benefit of your children. That’s obviously easier to do if you are able to see and speak to each other about any issues that arise regarding your children’s upbringing.

      We understand that the period following the breakdown of a relationship can be difficult. Where you are finding it hard to communicate with your former partner, a process such as mediation can help you negotiate the future arrangements for your children.

      Mediation works by an impartial third party (a mediator) working with you both to help you come to an agreement. Many couples find that this process helps create the basis for a civil working relationship going forward. Our specialist solicitors can support you through the mediation process, helping you to communicate with your former partner in a productive way.

      In some cases we know that you may not wish to see your former partner for a more serious reason – such as if you have suffered from domestic violence, or you fear physical or emotional abuse either to yourself or your children. In these instances it may be possible to go through the divorce process without seeing your former partner, and also to present a case for them not to see your children if they pose a danger to them.

      We have an experienced team of lawyers, who take a caring but no nonsense approach to agreeing arrangements for children. We’ll advise you of your options and whether you are likely to have to see or speak to your former partner. Where you’re worried about seeing your former partner either in mediation or in court, our solicitors will be there to support you and ensure that you and your children’s interests are protected.

      For advice on your case, please call us on 0345 604 4911 or get in touch online and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    • How Does The Court Decide Child Arrangements?
    • If you can’t agree the arrangements for your children with your former partner – either between yourselves or through mediation – then the court will need to decide for you.

      The court's main priority when deciding child arrangements is the wellbeing of your children. In most cases, they view children having regular contact with both parents as being best for their wellbeing. The court will also view contact with the child’s extended family (for instance grandparents) as important to their upbringing.

      When deciding the details of a child arrangements order, the court must take into account all of the factors listed in the welfare checklist in Section 2.1 of the Children Act. These include:

      • The child’s wishes and feelings (these are not necessarily a deciding factor)
      • The parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
      • Any harm or risk of harm to the child
      • The child’s age, sex and background
      • The likely effects of any change to the child’s care arrangements
      • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs

      Although the court’s decision will be legally binding, you can apply to the court to change the terms of the order in the future (if your circumstances change for instance).

      We have decades of experience as one of the UK's leading family law teams, dealing with many complex separation and child arrangement cases. Call us today on 0345 604 4911, or contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    • What Happens If We Never Married Or Were In A Civil Partnership?
    • If you are unmarried and have parental responsibility, then you have the same rights as any married parent.

      For same sex couples the legal situation is a little more complicated. There have been a number of changes to the law in recent years and child arrangements can depend on how the child was conceived or came into the family.

      If you’re in a same sex relationship and are worried about your parental rights, it’s best to seek advice from a family law specialist before taking any action. Call us on 0345 604 4911 or contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

    • Do You Accept Legal Aid Cases?
    • Legal aid is no longer available to help parents in private disputes over child arrangements, except in certain circumstances, such as certain cases of domestic violence. Unfortunately we can’t accept legal aid cases, but if we believe that your circumstances might entitle you to receive legal aid, we will refer you to a firm that can help you. You may also be able to find a suitable firm on the government’s website

    • How Much Does It Cost?
    • You may have to go to court if you can’t come to an agreement with your partner, but you are both required to try and reach an agreement over the arrangements for your children's care and financial arrangements before taking the case to court.

      We can help you and your partner try to reach an agreement, if necessary with the use of our trained mediators, who can help you and your partner discuss your situation in a transparent and constructive way. We can also provide you with access to family therapists and counselling services for extra support.

      Out-of-court agreements are typically cheaper and quicker than going to court, which can make them less stressful for all involved - an important consideration where children are concerned.

      If none of the out-of-court processes work, we will ensure you have the best legal representation in court. Our solicitors will be open and honest about the likely outcome, and will fight to protect your best interests. We will ensure you are well prepared for any appearances, and will be at your side throughout.

      As one of the UK's leading family law firms, our solicitors have dealt with many different types of cases, so no matter how complicated your situation is, we can offer you clear advice that comes from years of experience.

      For advice or a consultation on your case, call us 0345 604 4911 or contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Either Parent Have Precedence When Deciding Custody?

No parent has automatic precedence over another when a court is making a Child Arrangements Order.

Many people believe that women are favoured by courts in matters relating to children, but this is often based on the way families traditionally operated in the past, where a father was seen as the breadwinner and the mother was responsible for the home and raising the children. This is now very old-fashioned, and not seen as reflective of modern families.

Courts now strive to ensure that both parents – and this also applies to same-sex couples – have a say in the raising of their children after a divorce.

You or your ex-partner may get residency of the children, meaning that they live with you most of the time, but the court will usually ensure that the other parent has regular access and a say in their upbringing.

Sometimes, the court may decide that residency should be split between both of you. A range of factors relating to finances, work commitments and providing the best environment for the children will be taken into account to make this decision.

If you have any questions about child custody law, or want to know how we can help secure a Child Arrangements Order for your children, call our child custody solicitors on 0345 604 4911, or you can contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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My Partner And I Have Split Amicably - Do We Still Need Our Children's Living Arrangements To Be Legally Ratified?

No, the courts prefer parents to come to an amicable agreement, so it’s not essential to put a legally recognised agreement in place.

However, we recommend that you and your partner have some kind of written agreement about custody of children, even if it's not a legal document.

Feelings and circumstances can change over time, and new relationships and the addition of step-families may change your idea of what's best for your children. Having something to refer back to could prove helpful if disputes arise in the future, even if the document isn't legally binding.

For more advice on whether you should get a Child Arrangements Order, or for help with any other aspect of child custody during a divorce, call our child custody lawyers on 0345 604 4911, or you can contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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Can Child Arrangements Orders Be Changed If I Don’t Agree With Them?

Child Arrangements Orders can in some circumstances be challenged and changed, but it all depends on your circumstances and the nature of your challenge.

Some Child Arrangements Orders will contain an allowance from the judge that you can change the framework of the order, if both you and your partner agree to the alteration. In other cases, you may be able to ask the court to consider a completely new Child Arrangements Order.

Each case of child custody is different, and it's important that you get expert legal advice before trying to challenge a Child Arrangements Order. For help with your case, you can call our expert family law team on 0345 604 4911, or contact us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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I live in Scotland, can Irwin Mitchell help me?

Our expert family law team works with a number of trusted partners to help our clients with family law issues in Scotland.

We’ll be your point of contact and manage the entire process for you throughout. You’ll get frequent progress updates and we’ll break down any legal jargon into plain English so you’re always in the loop.

To find out more about how we can help, give us a call on 0345 604 4911 or contact us online.

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