Contact and Residence

Residence:
A Residence Order is simply a declaration by the Court as to where a child shall live. Residence replaced the old legal notion of "Custody" but the term is still frequently used by members of the public and the media. The fundamental difference between the current position (Residence) and former (Custody) is that custody once bestowed a raft of additional rights and powers on the parent to whom the order was granted. This left a significant imbalance between the parents and often lead to an inflammation of the relationship between them.

Residence merely declares with whom the child will live but conveys no additional rights or powers on the parent, meaning both remain equal in the eyes of the law. The only exception to this is that a Residence Order would grant Parental Responsibility to a parent who did not already have it.

Residence will usually be granted to the parent who was previously the primary carer as the Court does not like to upset the status quo for the child. The Court will require a good reason to transfer residence, although it is not impossible.

It is possible to have a Shared Residence Order where the children stay with each parent for an almost equal amount of time. This is becoming more popular but there are some concerns from the Courts that it prevents the child from settling at either parent's house and leaves them with no-where to truly call home.

Defined Contact:
This is simply an order that defines a minimum amount of contact a child is to have with their non-resident parent. It can be either direct contact where the child goes to or stays with the parent or it can be indirect contact where cards, letters and presents are exchanged between the parent and child on a regular basis but they do not actually meet face to face.

Defined Contact Orders are usually only required where the parents cannot agree contact or the primary carer refuses to let the non-resident parent see the children.

It is important to note that the law operates under what is known as the "No Order Principle". This states that an Order should only be made where absolutely necessary and in the interests of the child(ren). Where possible, the Court would always expect the parents to agree the contact and avoid involving the Court.

In any application to the Court, it is likely that CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will be invited to prepare a report to consider whether the order sought is in the best interests of the child. This will involve a CAFCASS Officer meeting with children, parents and any relevant professionals before compiling their report and making recommendations to the Court.

At Rundlewalker, we have experienced solicitors, including specialist members of the Solicitors' Regulation Authority Accreditation Schemes, ready to provide initial advice regarding your rights as a parent. We will lead you from start to finish though the Court process including representing you at any Court hearings that may take place.

Please contact our Family Law Team by telephone for free initial advice: 01392 209209.
If you choose to email, please provide a contact telephone number and we will call you at the earliest opportunity.
Nick Dudman, Director: 01392 209210. Email nick.dudman@rundlewalker.com
Susan Jury, Solicitor: 01392 209212. Email sue.jury@rundlewalker.com

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