If you and your ex-partner cannot decide who your child will live with, you may have to attend court to resolve the matter. Instruct a family lawyer as soon as possible if you are having serious difficulties coming to agreements following a relationship breakdown. It will be best for everyone involved in the matter if you can resolve residence disputes as soon as possible so your child can be cared for in a stable environment.

To apply for a residence order (previously custody) you will have to pay a £200 fee and will have to fill in a C100 court form. This form is easily downloadable from the government’s website. You will then have to send this application form to your local court, or your local family proceedings court. You can research relevant regional courts on the UK Justice website, where HM Courts and Tribunals service provide a ‘court finder’ tool. Furthermore, when you apply for a residence order you will need to instruct a solicitor. Do not be too concerned about legal costs, as if you cannot afford your legal fees you may be able to get help with them via legal aid.

Following your application for a residence order, you will be contacted to attend a hearing with your ex-partner. At this hearing a judge will examine the situation and will make a decision as to what would be the best route to follow. They will assess whether you and your partner agree on anything, how much you do not agree on and whether your child is at risk in any way. In all situations you will be encouraged to reach an agreement between yourselves rather than taking the process further with the courts. However, this is not always possible and the process will continue beyond this initial hearing if this is the case. Sometimes mediation will be suggested as a next step, sometimes a report will be compiled by the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (Cafcass).

A Cafcass report will consider the wishes of the child and the officer who compiles it will present their opinion on the situation. When deciding upon whom to grant a residence order to the court will consistently be considering what is best for the child. This will depend upon their wishes, their needs, their schooling, the ability of each parent to provide for the child and any risk of harm the child may be under. A lot of factors are taken into account.

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