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How do County Courts share the care of children between parents?

The primary aim of this study was to better understand the detail of different types of child care arrangements set up during litigation at County Court level. Very little information had previously been published about the different types of child care patterns confirmed by the lower courts in parental disputes about where a child should live and what sort of contact should be facilitated with the other parent. We wanted to see to what extent the courts facilitated or promoted involvement by both parents in the child’s life. We were particularly interested in how cases involving difficult issues of domestic violence or child safety concerns were resolved. The study provides robust data on the typical levels of parental involvement in court condoned child care arrangements in the cases examined.

The second aim of the study was to shed light on how the different types of court orders then in existence were used and understood by parents and the courts. Why did parents apply for a one type of legal order rather than another? In what circumstances did the courts substitute a different type of legal order for that requested by the parent applicants?

The third aim of the study was to better understand the role of the courts in adjudicating such disputes. What reasons did parent applicants give for resorting to court adjudication? Could these types of cases be resolved without court adjudication? What process did the court use in achieving resolution of these disputes?

Cutting across all of these questions was the issue of whether obtaining a ‘fair’ and even-handed solution for adults took precedence over the court’s legal obligation to further the welfare of the child as the paramount and overriding consideration. Were the interests of children routinely interpreted as coinciding with adult wishes?