Five of the most common shared custody agreements

Separation is a very difficult time for all parties, especially when children are involved. Having an agreement can reduce the impact the separation has on the child/ren as well as minimising conflict between one another. Parents are encouraged to have the child/ren’s best interests at the forefront of their mind and put their needs above any feelings they have towards one another.

Learn more: Family law solicitor services and child custody advice at Goughs.

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Why is a custody agreement important?

The concept of ‘custody’ is outdated in UK law and agreements between the parents are instead referred to as ‘child arrangements’. It is important to have an agreement in place to provide your child/ren with stability and promote healthy relationships with both parents. The court works on a ‘no order’ principle and will only make an order when it would be better for the child/ren than not making one, or if an agreement cannot be reached.

What is in a child custody agreement?

A child custody agreement will cover who the child/ren live with and the time the child/ren spend with the other parent. This is likely to include provisions for school holidays, religious holidays and special occasions such as birthdays.

The five main shared custody agreements

The five main child arrangements are detailed below but it is important to consider what will work in your individual circumstances. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer and you will need to weigh up what will work best for your child/ren as well as yourselves. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Family lawyers if you would like any more information on the agreements detailed below. 

1. Sole Residency

With a sole residency arrangement, the child/ren will have a primary home with one parent and there will be an agreement as to when they will spend time with the non-resident parent. Each parent is treated equally and there is no presumption in favour of a child living with their mother or their father.

This arrangement provides the child/ren with a stable home, and, in our experience, is preferred when one parent lives or works away.

There is a risk that it could prevent the child/ren from forming a close relationship with the non-resident parent, but this can be limited by maintaining regular time with the child/ren via telephone or video call when with the resident parent.

In the court, this is called a ‘lives with’ order, and time spent with the non-resident parent would also be ordered if necessary.

2. Joint Residency

With joint residency, the child/ren live with both parents for specified periods of time. This could be a 50/50 split between each parent’s house or could be shared unequally between the parents.

This allows the child/ren to form close relationships with both parents and reflects that both parents have an active role in the child/ren’s upbringing.

There can be some practical difficulties with the child/ren needing to have their possessions in two places, but these should reduce as the agreement matures.

3. Bird’s Nest Parenting

Bird’s nest parenting is becoming increasingly popular among separated couples, it is an agreement whereby the child/ren stay in the family home and the parents take turns to move in and out. The parents can have equal or unequal shares of the time in the house with the child/ren depending on work schedules or other commitments. When not in the house, the parents will need to make alternative living arrangements such as living with friends or family.

This agreement maintains stability for the child/ren in the early stages of separation as they remain in a familiar environment with the routine they are used to.

It is usually only a suitable arrangement in the early stages of separation as it is a helpful tool to stabilise the child/ren whilst the parents are getting on track, but parents must be cautious not to distort the reality of how life will be going forward. Parents must be able to communicate with one another and it is unlikely that such agreement would be suitable in high conflict situations as this would inevitably affect the child/ren.

4. Flexible Arrangements

The time spent with the child/ren can vary weekly with flexible arrangements dependent on what suits the family. This is an ideal arrangement when one parent has an unpredictable work schedule, such as working shifts or being a deployable member of the armed forces. The arrangement requires good communication and understanding between the parents to work and agreeing notice periods for childcare changes can be a useful tool in ensuring the arrangement runs smoothly.

5. Co-parenting

Co-parenting is a much broader concept as it underpins how the parents communicate for the benefit of the child/ren. Open communication is encouraged to agree the best way to care for the child/ren. For example, if a child has had a bad day at school, it is advantageous if one parent can ring the other to explain this and discuss what they can do to help.

This concept is also a useful tool for same-sex or LGBTQ couples, couples who have used a surrogate/donor and the biological parent is still involved, as well as those who have never been in a relationship but wish to raise the child/ren together.

How can Goughs help?

At Goughs, we understand how difficult separation can be and would be happy to help you navigate through the uncertain times. If you would like to discuss any of the child arrangements outlined above or would like advice on your family matter, please get in touch for a free initial discussion.

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Author Bio

Casey Gilroy

I enjoy working in a profession where you are helping people and where no two days are ever the same.

The constant change and new laws mean you are always learning something new.

I enjoy problem solving for my clients to ensure positive outcomes are sought.

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