Posted by Amelia Davey on 19th December 2023
Why we no longer talk about ‘Child Custody’ in family law

For parents navigating family law matters, the terminology used can be confusing and impact your understanding. In this blog post children lawyer Amelia Davey explores why the legal system has moved away from talking about ‘child custody’.

As a lawyer specialising in family law, I often encounter clients who are navigating the complexities of not only the family law system but also the legal jargon surrounding it. One of the most significant shifts being the move away from the term ‘custody’.

The shift from ‘Custody’ and ‘Access’

Historically, ‘custody’ and ‘access’ were the go-to terms in family law when discussing arrangements for children after a separation or divorce. However, these terms started to be seen as problematic because they often intensified conflicts. ‘Custody’ implied ownership and control over a child, which could lead to a win-lose mindset among parents, overshadowing the most important aspect, which is the child’s best interests.

Introducing ‘Residence’ and ‘Contact’

In 1989, the Children Act introduced ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ as replacements for ‘custody’ and ‘access.’ This change aimed to shift the focus from the rights of parents to the needs of the child. It was a step towards recognising that both parents play a vital role in a child’s life, irrespective of who the child lives with.

Child Arrangements Orders

The evolution continued in 2014 with the introduction of Child Arrangements Orders. This new term further moved away from the notion of one parent ‘having custody’ over a child. Instead, it focused on practical arrangements: who the child lives with (‘live with’ orders) and who the child spends time with (‘spend time with’ orders).

This term places emphasis on the practical aspects of parenting post-separation, such as who the children live with and spend time with. As a parent, this approach helps you focus on creating a stable and nurturing environment for your children, rather than getting caught up in legalistic terms.

Why this matters?

Moving away from the term ‘custody’ in family law represents a shift towards a more child-centric approach in legal disputes. It’s about fostering a cooperative environment where you, as a parent, can work towards the best interests of your children in a supportive and understanding way.

Whether you’re familiar with the term ‘custody’ or the newer terminology, our focus is on helping you navigate the legal process. We believe in a collaborative approach, guiding you through the legal jargon and focusing on what matters most – your children’s happiness and well-being.

At the Family Law Company we’re committed to guiding you through this journey with compassion and expertise, ensuring that your family’s needs are met every step of the way.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

Amelia Davey is an experienced Senior Associate Solicitor who is dual qualified in both England and Wales and Western Australia. She specialises in dealing with Children Law matters.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
The information submitted here is used and stored for the purpose of replying to the enquiry. For more information on how we process data please visit our Privacy Policy.

Information Articles

+ More Blog Articles
Would you like to speak to someone? Find out how to get in touch...