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
"We will be changing our solicitor to the one you recommended. Your service is brilliant, I am only sorry we did not use you previously. Thank you again!"
KB, property law, Mar 15
"We used the solicitor as recommended, the service we have received has been both prompt and efficient. We would have no hesitation in using your organisation in the future."
BS, employment law, Mar 15
"Oustanding service! So friendly and helpful from the offset, and you went out of your way to make sure everything ran smoothly and that I was happy."
KB, employment law, London, Feb 15
"I am extremely impressed with your efficiency and dedication to my case. You have been a wonderful help and I will be recommending you to my friends. Thanks again, keep up the hard work!"
DMC, family law, London, Feb 15
"Very impressed with the speed of service and the quality advice given. What may seem like a trivial incident to some people was deeply upsetting for me and you made a real difference."
Defamation law, Scotland, Feb 15
"Even though you must deal with hundreds of these queries, your understanding, caring and the promptness with which you have dealt with my case is very reassuring."
Employment Law, London, Jan 15
"You offer clarity and friendly help just when it is needed for people going into what can be a stressful undertaking"
KH, Property Law, Manchester, Jan 15
"I've been very impressed with you and your service, so thank you for being so prompt and're a bit of a lighthouse in a storm at the moment!" EM, Employment Law, London, Jan 15
Your solicitor has been really helpful and a very good choice - he really put my mind at ease. Your service is excellent - I would recommend you to anyone who needs a solicitor. David, employment law, January 15
"I am very satisfied with your service, it was timely, effective and very easy to use. Best of all my mind was put at ease which was just what I needed when I contacted you. Thank you" SR, Commercial Litigation, Jan 15

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'.