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.

0800 1777 162
or fill in the form
Our trained advisor contacts you
Your chosen specialist solicitor calls you
Quick enquiry form
Area of law:
What our clients say about us
"The firm you recommended was extremely helpful. Your service has been very useful indeed and I won't hesitate to contact you again or recommend your service to friends and family." Liz, family law, South Wales, Aug 13
"I am very grateful for your thanks for listening to the relevant points and surrounding issues and making this recommendation. In a word - excellent!"
Peter, family law, Oswestry, Feb 14
"I want to thank you for constantly being in touch and providing me with different options. I would highly recommend Contact Law to anyone who needs legal assistance." AP, employment law, London, Dec 13
"Thank you so much for your recommendation. The solicitor suggested really interesting alternatives, and gave me moral support. I'm so glad I came across your website."
LR, Kingston, Nov 10
"We engaged the solicitor's services and everything has been fantastic. It was such a relief...I wish I had called you earlier and saved myself hours of calls!"
Jaye, civil litigation, N. Yorks, Feb 13
"Contact Law's solicitors were fantastic and won me the compensation I was hoping for following my accident."

Tom F, PI, Edinburgh, March 09
"Sincere thanks for making things a lot easier for me and my family. When I contacted you initially I really didn't know where to start and was terrified by what costs might be involved."TC, London, March 11
"The service you provided was very good. It was informative, you listened to me and determined the best way forward. Thanks for your help."
JC, Swindon, April 14
"Initially I was sceptical about asking a question online (never having done that before) but would do it again and would recommend others do the same." Pete Chambers, Feb 12
"Thanks for following up. We are going with [the recommended solicitor] and I'm very please with the way you have helped us. I will certainly recommend you to our clients." John, commercial property law, London, May 13

We use cookies on the Contact Law site to help us improve it.

If you would like to allow our cookies, please click 'Continue' or carry on browsing. For more information on cookies and how to change your settings, click 'More info'.