One of the most important things that need to be decided in court is child custody. It is about ensuring that a child has the right environment and that they will be properly looked after. Of course, that can also be difficult in a divorce when deciding who has the means to best look after a child which is why it helps to be aware of the legal issues around child custody.

Rights and responsibilities

Essentially the two main responsibilities a parent has is a home for their child and a duty to protect and look after that child. This can include making sure they are appropriately disciplined, educated, receive the right medical treatment and looking after their property. A parent needs to ensure their financial support regardless of whether or not they are judged to be responsible.

Generally speaking from birth a mother has responsibility for their child. A father can have legal responsibility if they are married, are on the birth certificate or have a parental responsibility agreement from the mother or the court. If a mother doesn’t agree an arrangement, however, you can apply for a court order.

For same sex parents if they are civil partners they both have parental responsibility or for non-civil partners they can apply for parental responsibility or jointly register the birth.


The thing to remember when it comes to visitation is it is about what is deemed best for the child as opposed to a right for the parent. What those rights are will depend on the age of the child – for babies it could be a few hours while for older children it may be alternate weekends.

Ideally a couple should be able to come up with a plan that suits all parties, for example, it should take into account holidays or regular activities so that the time spent with the child works in the right way. This would also take into account the amount of time a parent has put in – one who has been regularly involved would be looked on more favourably than one who has been absent for a number of years.

Child arrangement orders can also be put in place to help coordinate visitation, allowing for an appropriate level of access and to provide a routine for the children.