Residency used to be known as custody. It refers to the parent with whom the children live and recognises that the absent parent still has parental responsibility (parental responsibility is automatic if the parents were married or the father's name is on the birth certificate and the child was born after December 1st 2003. A parental responsibility agreement may also have been signed). This means that the absent parent can have a say in their child's upbringing by making decisions regarding their education, religion and medical needs.
Where residency is contested the court system usually favours the parent with whom the children currently reside unless the children are old enough to make their own decisions or there is sufficient evidence that the children's welfare is at risk. When considering residency you should always put your children's welfare before your feelings towards your ex. Consider whether you are in a position to care for your children full time and the sacrifices you will need to make.
If the children are old enough to make their own decisions the court will take their feelings into consideration. If your children are adamant that they do not want to live with you and their welfare is not at risk you will probably be wasting your time and money in pursuing court action and could embitter your ex, hindering any contact arrangements.
If you are planning to apply for residency then you will need to show why the children will be better off with you. Ask yourself the following:
- What financial provision can you make? Consider your salary, Tax Credits, State Benefits and proposed maintenance
- What size is your current home? If it is not big enough will you move and can you show your financial ability to do this? You could seek an estimate for an extension to your home to show that you are able to expand it if necessary
- How will the children be cared for when you are working and how will you pay for childcare?
- What schools will the children attend? What are the advantages of this school if they will need to move or how will they travel to their former school if your home is further away?
- How can you enrich their lives beyond what they are currently being offered? Consider extra curricular activities, time you can spend with them, the location of your home and local facilities etc.
- Will you be offering contact with both parents and extended family? If your ex is refusing contact without good grounds then it may be that only you can ensure contact with two parents and extended family.