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Shared Living Arrangements

What are shared living arrangements?

Shared living arrangements (also sometimes called shared residence), in family law, is a legal status recognising that children have two homes.

Since April 2014, residence and contact orders (including shared residence orders), were combined into a single child arrangements order. However, this new order still allows the court the decision that the children live with both parents (albeit in different houses and at different times), as an alternative to children living with one parent and spending time with or otherwise having contact with the other.

These alternative arrangements are allowed in paragraph 7 of the draft child arrangements order.

That draft order can be found in our Draft Court Orders section.

Draft Court Orders

Why consider shared living arrangements?

You may wish to apply for the children to solely live with you, and simply have contact with the other parent, but it is worth considering the alternative as shared residence is likely to be in your children´s best interests (unless there is a history of violence or neglect by the other parent).

Psychological studies record that parents with shared residence and/or shared parenting arrangements are less likely to suffer conflict that those with sole residence. More importantly, research records that children living in shared residence arrangements fare significantly better on all adjustment measures, especially when the parents are prepared to be flexible over arrangements. You can read that research for yourself on our Shared Care Research page (coming soon).

An application for shared living arrangements within a child arrangements order recognises the importance of the other parent in your children´s life and shows your respect for them as a parent. This can reduce the potential for future conflict. It can also count in your favour when Judges and Court Welfare Officers see a parent respecting the other parent´s strengths. It suggests that you see your children´s welfare as important, and for your child, shared residence brings the benefit of encouraging both parents to be involved in their children´s upbringing and care which helps assure the children´s educational, social and psychological development.

The advantage of shared living arrangements are that they are perceived to:

When might the court consider shared living arrangements?

When there are intractable contact disputes, the court may impose a shared living arrangement as a means of impressing on parents that both are equally important in the child´'s life. Established in case law in the case commonly referred to as D v D.

D v D (Shared Residence Order) [2001] 1 FLR 495

That case also confirmed that shared living arrangements could be set out in an order even when one parent was hostile to the idea.

The notion that shared living arrangements were only suitable where there was co-operation between the parents was dispelled by Lord Justice Wall (as he then was) in the case A v A [2004] EWHC 142 (Fam):

"If these parents were capable of working in harmony, and there were no difficulties about the exercise of shared parental responsibility, I would have ... made no order as to residence."

Benefits of shared living arrangements being set out in a court order were also highlighted, in that they:

A v A [2004] EWHC 142 (Fam)

Circumstances within which shared living arrangements were appropriate were further set out by Lord Justice Thorpe in the case C (A Child) [2006] EWCA Civ 235.

"...the whole tenor of recent authority has been to liberate trial judges to elect for a regime of shared residence, if the circumstances and the reality of the case support that conclusion and if that conclusion is consistent with the paramount welfare consideration."

He went on to set out those circumstances:

C (A Child) [2006] EWCA Civ 235

Do shared living arrangements mean a 50/50 split of time?

No. This is a very common misconception. Shared living arrangements simply reflect the children´s living arrangements in that it is a legal recognition that the children have a home with each parent. It may be that the children live with one parent midweek and on alternate weekends, and live with the other parent for the rest of their time.

It is quite possible, where children live abroad or their parents live a considerable distance apart, that the children see one parent only during holidays and live with the other during term time. The case F (Children) [2003] EWCA Civ 592 established that shared residence can be appropriate even when the parent´s homes are some considerable distance apart (in that case, Scotland and England).

F (Children) [2003] EWCA Civ 592

Shared Living Arrangements and Parental Rights

A further common misconception is that parent with whom the child lives have greater legal rights concerning matters related to their children´s upbringing than those with whom a child spends times or otherwise has contact with. The right to make decisions about your children´s education, medical treatment, religion etc comes through having ´Parental Responsibility´ (PR).

A child arrangements order does grant PR to a father if he is named as a person with whom the child lives and did not otherwise have PR. It should however be noted that all biological mothers already have PR, and biological fathers who were married to the mother OR whose children were born after December 2003 (and whose names were included on the children´s birth certificate) will already have legal Parental Responsibility for their child.

It is only unmarried fathers whose children were born before December 2003 or whose children were born after (but the father was not included on the birth certificate) who don´t, unless the court has granted a Parental Responsibility Order in the father´s favour, or the mother has entered into a formal Parental Responsibility Agreement with them. See our guides concerning Parental Responsibility which go into more depth on this subject:

Parental Responsibility Menu

The one additional right a parent has, when named as a person with whom the child lives (as opposed to a parent who the child spends time or otherwise has contact with) is the right to take their children abroad for a period of up to one month without first seeking the other parent´s agreement (or the court´s via a specific issue order). It is worth noting that once a child arrangements order (or the old residence order) has been made, neither parent can take the children abroad for more than a month at a time without the other parent´s permission (or the court´s).

What is undoubtedly true is that there is, sometimes, an incorrect perception by teachers and medical professionals that a parent named as the person with whom the child lives has greater rights to involvement in their children´s lives. This is legally incorrect. A child arrangements order which states that the children live with both parents prevents this misconception interfering with parents´ involvement in schooling. The great body of psychological and educational research supports that children do better at school when both parents are actively involved in their education.

Other misconceptions

There are still members of the judiciary who believe that shared shared living arrangements are only appropriate when parents are in agreement. This is incorrect, and there are a number of instances where such judicial opinion has been challenged and overturned by the Court of Appeal.

What form to apply to Court?

You would use Form C100. See our Form C100 Support Page to download this form and for additional information.

C100 Support

If you have applied for a child arrangements order, and are not seeing your children currently, you should ask within your application that the court grant to "interim contact". If you are responding to an application you will receive a C7 form, and should include this request within that paperwork.

Applying to court

If you are using a solicitor, they will do this for you. Otherwise, download and complete Form C100. Print and sign three copies of the form.

Check how much the court fees are (see our page on Court Fees), and either take a cheque, postal order or cash for that amount when you go to your local family court.

Court Fees

It will assist both you and the judge if you write a brief Position Statement. Try to keep the position statement to two to three pages, setting out briefly why you are applying for contact, and why you believe it to be in the children´s best interests. Be factual, and try to be objective in what you write, and the language you use.

A position statement is not essential, but it helps inform the judge, briefly and ideally succinctly, why you are applying for the order, and can assist you in court so you do not forget any points you wish to raise.

Before setting off for the court building, ensure you have with you:

Our Child Arrangements Order Package

This pack includes our guide to child arrangements orders, court forms for applications, the court services' guide to serving the forms, our checklist for applying to court, a guide to writing a position statement and our template for a position statement. £5.00

Order and Buy Now

A download console will be emailed to you within 24 hours of your purchase. Pay by credit card, debit card or paypal via Paypal Secure Server.

Process Flowchart

You may find the linked flowchart helpful, which details the process for the child arrangements programme.

CAP Process

Case Law

You may find our shared living arrangements case law library helpful in supporting your arguments to court.

Case Law

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Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

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