The Process of Applying For Sole Custody

Lawyers at Higgins Miller are experts when it comes to dealing with family law. This encompasses
matters as varied as wills and probate, divorce and contact with social services. It also means that
we deal with people trying to do the best for their child when a relationship comes to an end, and
this sometimes involves a parent seeking to gain sole custody of that child.

Because we specialise in family law we’re used to dealing with clients during some of the most
stressful periods of their life. That’s why we always combine up to the minute legal advice with a
supportive and compassionate approach. We explain even the most complex legal issues in language
which is clear and simple and avoids jargon and overly technical terminology, so that every client
knows exactly what we are doing for them throughout the process.

When it comes to a client seeking sole custody of a child, we would first explain exactly what sole
custody means. Strictly speaking, the terms ‘sole custody’ and ‘joint custody’ are now covered by the
phrase ‘child arrangements’. In spite of this, we understand that the words ‘sole custody’ are easy to
understand in terms of what they mean for how a child is to be looked after following a separation,
and so we’re happy to keep using them. When a client comes to us seeking sole custody of a child
and we believe that would be in the best interests of that child then we will work with them in order
to have what is known as a ‘lives with’ order made in their favour. We understand that the most
important thing for almost any parent following the end of a relationship is to do what’s best for
their child, and we’ll work hard and use all our expertise to make sure that happens, at the same
time as trying to take some of the anger and bitterness from the situation and encourage all parties
to approach things as calmly as possible.

Every relationship is different, and there are huge numbers of reasons why a client may feel that
gaining sole custody of their child would be the best thing to do. In some cases, it may be because
they feel that the other parent lacks the resources needed to support the child either financially or
emotionally. In others, it may be because a parent has shown themselves to be violent or abusive
toward the child or otherwise behaved in a manner which demonstrates that the child would not be
safe with them even temporarily. In all cases, the parent should be driven by concern for the child welfare rather than anything else, and the first thing we will do when starting to seek sole custody ensures that this is the case and that the client in question simply wants to do what is genuinely best
for their child.

Although it may seem difficult, the default legal position in cases such as these is that custody should
be shared, and that it has to be demonstrated clearly why this should not be the case. This means
that the parents in question first have to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting
(MIAM), in which an amicable agreement will be attempted. Of course, in cases where the other
parent is neglectful, abusive, violent or otherwise not fit to look after their child the chances of a
mediated agreement are all zero, so the next step following mediation will be to apply to the court
for a Child Arrangements Order.

When a client is attempting to be granted sole custody of a child, the court will have to be convinced
that maintaining contact with the other parent will be bad for the welfare of the child. The experts at
Higgins Miller will help the client to put together a case which demonstrates that this is true, and
therefore convince the court to grant sole custody. In the case of a parent whom the court believes
to be violent and/or abusive, this may involve a degree of supervised contact in person or contact via
media such as letters, Skype, telephone etc. It could also mean no contact whatsoever, and in

making the decision the court will consider the evidence we present on behalf of the client and take
into account the degree to which the child itself is able to grasp their circumstances. Although each
case is different, the majority of courts assume that a child aged nine years or more will have such
an understanding. Amongst the factors which the court will consider, and which our expert family
lawyers will include in any evidence presented to the court, will be:

  • The physical, educational and emotional needs of the child
  • The impact which a change in circumstances would have on the child
  • The age, sex and background of the child
  • Any harm the child has already suffered or may suffer in the future
  • How capable each of the parties is of meeting the physical and emotional needs of the child
  • The powers which are available to the court under the Children’s Act

The court will work through this checklist in light of the evidence presented by both parties. Our
expert lawyers will always work to ensure that the evidence case we build for our clients has the
best possible chance of persuading the court that sole custody is the right choice to make. If the
court does grant sole custody, it will be a decision which is legally binding on both parents.

If you’d like to find out more about sole custody or have questions about CAOs in general, please
call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’re carrying out no contact
consultations wherever possible in light of the current crisis. We’ve recently passed our Cyber
Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and
determination to remain ahead of the competition. Our first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of
charge, and we’ll give you a fixed fee first appointment, so you don’t have to worry about how much
our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look


June 30, 2020