Establishing clear, organised and effective shared residency for your child

Following on from a separation, there will inevitably be countless details that you and your ex will need to confirm. The things that you both need to work together to sort and organise include various matters concerning your child’s life and wellbeing.

However, it’s highly likely that the absolute last thing that you want to be doing at this moment is spending extensive time in discussion with your ex. This is why we have provided you with a breakdown of how best to go about sorting one of the key decisions that you will both need to make following your divorce – the matter of your child’s residency.

Shared residency involves a child living with both parents, which then means that both parents have responsibility for the child’s wellbeing. Although the success of this concept depends on several factors (predominantly how far away you and your ex live from each other, and how well you get on), this does provide a great option for parents who both want to be involved in their child’s life.

For example, one form of shared residency is 50/50 residence, which means that the child’s residence is equally split in half between both parents. The child would live with both parents, and move between the two houses in a regular, routine way (I will go into more detail about how this could be structured later on).

Although it might stray slightly from the convention (or slightly outdated expectation) of mothers’ having automatic sole custody, shared residency will be an important topic of discussion for fathers who don’t want the divorce to mean that they have to give up spending regular, quality time with their child.

Residency could be an arrangement that simply takes place between you both, or it could be a matter that requires the assistance of the dispute resolution services offered by mediation, or even the courts, should it be necessary.

Hopefully, however, you will be able to work together to come to a decision that you are both happy with. In this post, I will be outlining some key things to discuss, and tips that you can use to quickly and effectively establish your plan for the joint residency of your child.

Key facts surrounding shared residency

If shared residency is an entirely new concept to you, we’ve outlined a few key facts that will help you understand how this agreement works, and what it involves.

  • Child residency law in the UK determines which parent has the primary responsibility for the care and charge of a child.
  • Residency is also commonly referred to as ‘custody’, and it is essentially an indication of the child’s main residence after the separation of their parents.
  • Joint residency means that the child will live with both parents. It also means that both parents share parental responsibility for the child.
  • When residency is shared, there is no legal minimum or maximum amount of time that each parent is automatically entitled to – this matter is determined on a case-by-base basis.
  • The courts, when deciding upon how the residency is shared, will always have the child’s best interests as its primary focus. This is based on the Best Interests of the Child Standard.
  • Shared residency in the UK is not as common as it is in America or Europe, although the general trend is that this form of custody is becoming a more popular option.

How to create a well-structured shared residency plan

The most common, simple way that you can divide up the time that your child spends with each parent is either alternating between you both (on a daily or a weekly basis) or rotating the days that they reside at each house.

Below, I’ll be going into a bit more detail about what I mean by each of these (and what they involve on a practical basis), as well as some examples of how you could incorporate these into the shared residency plan for your child. While you’re trying to figure out this shared residency schedule, make sure you keep it flexible and continue to adjust it so that it best meets your child’s needs.

Common examples of joint custody schedules include:

  • Alternating weeks – this is a very simple, easy-to-follow way to split custody.
  • Alternating fortnightly – this would help minimise any transportation difficulties between the two residencies.
  • Alternating weeks with a visit in the middle – this could involve your child staying in one house for the bulk of a week, but then visiting the other parent’s house for dinner on (for example) a Wednesday night, or even staying over there for one night during that week. This way, if going a full week without seeing your child seems rather daunting, you can still maintain regular contact, even when it is not your week to have your child live with you.
  • Alternating a set number of days – the number of days can change to best suit you. It could be 2 days, or 10 days, or whatever best works for you, just keep it 50/50 and switch your child’s residence between you both after this allotted time.
  • Rotating residence 3-3-4-4 – in order to take into account the fact that a week is 7 days long, a child would spend three days with parent A, then three with parent B, followed by four with parent A and another four days with parent B, then the cycle repeats. This way, disruption is minimised, as the child consistently lives with parent A on Sunday through to Tuesday, and Wednesday through to Friday is spent with parent B.
  • Rotating residence 2-2-5-5 – this is similar to the rotation detailed above, apart from the fact that Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are alternated between both parents.

While all of these ways of dividing your child’s time have their own merits, ultimately deciding which will best suit you, your ex and your child is a matter that is personal and unique to your situation. With this in mind, the transition days between you both can happen on any day of the week, so pick a date that suits your child and their plans best.

The factors that you should consider when making this decision include: your child’s age, where they go to school, how many extracurricular activities they do, you and your ex’s work routines, how far away you and your ex live, and how well you and your ex get on.

You might then want to change certain aspects of your shared residency plan after you have considered these factors – for example, if you and your ex live more than 30 minutes’ drive away from each other, you might want to choose a schedule that involves your child spending larger chunks of time at each residence.

Once you’ve made an agreement that suits you both, write the details down in full in your parenting plan. From there, you can reassess it over time – remember, it’s a plan that’s designed to be adaptable so that it continues to work around your child’s life into the future.

If you and your ex had a child together, this will be one of the most critical matters that you will both need to determine very early in the stages of your separation. For those of you who are able to co-parent together, shared residency will enable you both to see your child on a regular, organised basis, thereby enabling you to keep your relationship with them as normal as possible.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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