Custody is having the responsibility for the day-to-day care of a child.
In determining questions regarding Custody, Guardianship or upbringing of an infant, the Court regards the “welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration”.
The mother of a child born outside marriage has automatic sole custody of her child. Where both parents agree, it is possible for them to share custody (joint custody) of the child on an informal basis. If parents are having difficulty agreeing joint custody they can attend mediation or collaborative law.
Where the parents cannot agree on joint custody, the father can apply to the local district court for joint or sole custody. The other parent and any other guardian will be informed of the application and any decision made by the court will be made in the best interests of the child. The court will consider the views of the child where possible given his/her age and understanding.
It is possible for a child’s father to apply for sole custody of his child.
For relatives and certain other persons, the court may make an order for custody on application by:
a person who is a relative of a child, or
a person with whom the child resides if that person is or was married to, or in a civil partnership with, or has cohabited with the parent of the child for a period of at least 3 years and has shared the day-to-day care of the child for at least 2 years, or
a person with whom the child resides and who has had the day-to-day care of the child for a continuous period of not less than 12 months and the child has no parent or guardian who is willing or able to exercise the rights and responsibilities of guardianship in respect of the child.
Before making an order for custody the court will require the consent of all guardians. However, the court may dispense with the need for consent if it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child to do so. Any decision made by the court will be made in the best interests of the child and the court will consider the views of the child where possible given his/her age and understanding.
The court can also make an order for joint custody and specify where the child is to live. Where the child is not living with one of his/her parents, for any period, the court can specify what access arrangements, if any, are to be put in place.
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