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Family Law

Shared Care

When parents separate, it is important to make sure they can fulfil their parental responsibilities and that children do not suffer unnecessary distress. Some parents decide to apply to the court for a Shared Care Order to set out arrangements for their children. If you would like advice about child arrangements, our experienced and friendly solicitors are here to help you.

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What is a Shared Care Order?

A Shared Care Order is a court order that specifies how the care of a child (or children) will be shared between separated parents.

This is unlikely to mean that a child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent, but it does mean they will spend a significant amount of time living with both.

What is ‘shared parenting presumption’?

Parents usually apply for a Child Arrangements Order when they separate, which sets out the living arrangements for their child or children.

A Child Arrangements Order is based on ‘shared parenting presumption’. The presumption is that it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in their lives.

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Why might you need a Shared Care Order?

Shared Care Orders have symbolic importance because the wording puts parents on an equal footing. A Child Arrangements Order states that a child will ‘live with’ one parent and ‘spend time with’ the other, which can make the latter parent feel less important. Although, in reality, parents share equal parental responsibility for their child, this wording can influence how each parent perceives their role.

With a Child Arrangements Order, the parent the child lives with can take a child out of the country for less than a month without seeking the other parent’s consent. However, the parent the child ‘spends time with’ must seek permission from the other. When a Shared Care Order is in place parents are equal because neither parent can take their child out of the country without the written consent of the other.

However, it is important to note that the court can add a direction in a Child Arrangements Order, which specifically states that both parents may take their child out of the country for less than a month without having to obtain written permission from the other.

Since the court can remove any unwanted consequences of a Child Arrangements Order, the main function of a Shared Care Order is the principle. The wording of a Shared Care Order challenges traditional thinking about a mother’s and father’s roles in their child’s life and highlights that both parents have equal status.

What factors will the court take into account when making an order?

A child’s best interests are the court’s primary consideration when considering shared parenting. The court works through a ‘welfare checklist’ that includes:

  • The child’s wishes, although a court will never ask a child to choose one parent over the other.
  • The parents’ capacity to care for the child and meet the child’s needs.
  • The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs.
  • Whether the child has suffered abuse or is in danger of suffering abuse.
  • How any changes to existing arrangements will impact the child.

The court will also take practical matters into account. For example, how far one parent lives from their child’s school and the working patterns of each parent. The court may also consider any family support each parent can access.

It is important to know that the court is not specifically aiming that a child spends an equal amount of time with each parent. The exact amount of time the child spends with each parent will depend on what is best for their welfare.

Are you considering a Shared Care Order?

Please get in touch with us if you would like to talk to our supportive family law solicitors about child arrangements orders, including Shared Care Orders.


Have any questions or need any help?

Our team of specialist lawyers are experts in their field. Be confident in their advice and decisions to help get the right outcome for you. Contact us today to see how we can help

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