Child custody laws in the UK


If you need help regarding child custody law in the UK you must get legal advice from a family law solicitor. If you cannot afford it, you may be eligible for legal aid.

What are the child custody laws in the UK?

Child custody laws in the UK govern things like:

  • Parental responsibility
  • Who a child will live with
  • Who a child will have contact with, and how much regular contact

What are the terms now used under child custody laws in the UK?

The terms used under the laws have changed over time, and now the terms ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ are used rather than ‘custody’ and ‘access’.

Similarly, the term ‘parental responsibility’ is used to describe all the rights and duties that parents have towards their children, for example, in making choices regarding:

  • Their education
  • Choice of religion or atheism
  • Acceptance or refusal of medical treatment

What orders can be made?

It is preferable to try to come to an agreement with the other parent of the child about where the children will live and who will see them and when. You could try mediation if you are having trouble reaching an agreement.

Some of the orders you can apply to the court for under child custody law are:

  • Joint custody order
  • Residence order
  • Contact order
  • Prohibited steps order
  • Specific issue order

What happens in the court room?

If you go to court you will need to explain your reasons for wanting custody. This is done in front of a ‘family panel’, which usually consists of three magistrates.

The magistrates will ask each parent questions about why you want custody and what your proposed arrangements would be. They will ask about how you will care for and provide for the child.

What will the solicitors ask me?

The solicitors for the other parent can ask questions about your lifestyle, finances, home arrangements, etc. They may also bring up any potential problems, such as violence, neglect or poor communication.

A court welfare officer may be appointed to assess your family home life and provide a report to the family panel on how you care and interact with your child. They may also speak to your child to learn where they would like to live and why.

If you can't reach an agreement, the courts can make orders under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. It is always advisable to have representation in court since appeals to the court are very expensive if something goes wrong on the day. Getting it right the first time with a specialist solicitor can save you time and money in the long run.

If you would like representation for a child custody case in the UK, Contact Law can put you in touch with local family law specialist solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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