Where does a child should live?

This blog explains the law about where a child should live, including the different types of living situations and how the family court decides where a child should live.

What is residence?

Residence, which used to be called “custody,” is the term for where the child will spend most of their time. When a couple breaks up and doesn’t live together anymore, the child usually stays with one of the parents. The parent who the child lives with most of the time is called the “resident parent,” and the other parent is called the “non-resident parent.” When the child spends the same amount of time with each parent, for example, one week with one parent and the next week with the other, the parents are said to share the child’s residence.

How do we pick a place for the child to live?

When parents break up, there are no rules about which parent a child should live with. This is up to the parents to decide on their own. Arrangements can be changed to fit the needs of the child and family as a whole. If you can’t come to an agreement, you can ask the court for a Child Arrangements Order to settle the disagreement.

What does being the resident parent mean?

The resident parent is the one who lives with the child and makes most of the day-to-day decisions about how the child is raised, and the other parent shouldn’t get in the way too much. These decisions will affect how the house runs and how the child spends his or her days. If the other parent has parental responsibility, the most important decisions about the child’s upbringing should be made together. Some examples of these kinds of decisions are where the child should go to school, what religion the child should be raised in, if the child’s name should be changed, etc. 

How old must a child be before they can choose where they want to live?

Parents can decide for themselves at what age they will let their child choose where they want to live. When parents decide where their child will live, they can choose whether the child or the parent will make the choice.

If the question of where the child will live has to be decided in court, the courts will start to pay attention to what the child wants when they are old enough to understand what is going on. This can happen between the ages of 12 and 13, but it depends on the situation. Wishes and feelings of children under 11 may be taken into account, but they usually don’t have as much weight.

When a child turns 16, the law says they can choose where they want to live, unless there is a residence order or child arrangements order that says where they have to live.

What happens if the parent who doesn’t live with the child doesn’t bring the child back?

If there isn’t a court order saying who the kids should live with, they usually don’t belong to either parent. So, if a parent doesn’t bring back a child after contact, they haven’t broken any laws. The police may check to see if the child is safe, but since it is a civil matter, they are not likely to get involved. If the parents can’t figure out how to solve the problem on their own, they could try to do so with the help of a lawyer or a mediator. If the problem still hasn’t been solved, you might have to go to court to get it done. With a Child Arrangements Order, you can ask the courts if it would be in the best interest of a child to be returned to the care of a parent.

If a parent is worried about a child’s safety and the other parent hasn’t given the child back, they may be able to get a Child Arrangements Order quickly.

What happens if we can’t decide where the child should live?

If parents can’t agree on where the child should live, they have three choices:

They can try family mediation to help them figure out what to do.
They can ask lawyers to help them come to a deal.
If mediation doesn’t work, they can ask the court for a Child Arrangements Order to decide where the child should live.

What is an Order for the Care of a Child?

A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that says where the child or children will live and how they can see each other. Before April 22, 2014, Residence and Contact Orders were given out instead of Child Arrangements Orders. With a Child Arrangements Order, a court can say that the child will spend some time with each parent.

A Child Arrangements Order is no longer valid when the child turns 18. You can only get a Child Arrangements Order for a child between the ages of 16 and 18 in very rare cases.

What happens when a child wants to live with the other parent even though there is an order?

If a Residence Order was made before April 22, 2014, or if a Child Arrangements Order names a person as having residence, Parental Responsibility will be given automatically to the person in whose favour the order is made. When the order ends, this Parental Responsibility will also end.

If there is a Residence Order or a Child Arrangements Order from the court, and all parties agree to a change in residence, there is no need to go to court to change it. But if you want to make the change official, you can apply for a variation.

If the parent who lives with the child is unhappy with the situation, the parent who doesn’t live with the child will have to go back to court to ask for a change in where the child lives. This is called a Child Arrangements Order.

If there isn’t a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order in place and both parents are happy with the arrangement, there’s no need to go to court. But if the parent who lives with the child doesn’t want the child to live with the other parent, they may need to get a Child Arrangements Order from the court.

Can I get legal aid for residence disputes?

If you have enough money, legal aid can help pay for the costs of mediation. Legal aid can help pay for the costs of going to court when there is proof of abuse in the home or to a child.

DISCLAIMER: All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for a professional advise. Should you decide to act upon on the information on this website, you do so at your own risk.

About Me

My name is Atty Lindoven Magsino, BSc, MBA, GDL, LLM, Ph.D. (candidate). I am a Partner & Solicitor /Lawyer and an advocate at Queen’s Park Solicitors. Our main office is located at Suite 4, Stewart House, 56 Longbridge Road, Barking, Essex, England, IG11 8RT, United Kingdom | Email: donm@queensparksolicitors.co.uk | Telephone: 02036437508 |Fax: 02033931725 | http://www.queensparksolicitors.co.uk | Regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA): 566513

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