A residence order sets out the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live. It replaced the old concept of 'custody'.
A court will only make an order in relation to a child if it considers that it is necessary to do so. In most cases parents will agree the arrangements for their children and the court will not make any order.
When making decisions about children the most important consideration is the welfare of the child.
If parents cannot agree where a child will live the court will make a decision, but parents will be encouraged to reach agreement, including using mediation.
The making of a residence order does not take away parental responsibility from people who already have parental responsibility.
A residence order can be made in favour of people who do not have parental responsibility. In such a case, that person will automatically acquire parental responsibility as well, but only for so long as the residence order is in force. Parental responsibility acquired in this way is subject to limitations.
The court does sometimes make an order for residence to be shared. Shared residence does not necessarily mean that a child spends equal time with each parent and the court has a wide range of options as to the terms of the residence order so that it can meet the needs of a particular case.
Where there is a residence order in force, no person can cause the child to be known by a new surname or remove the child from the UK, without written consent from all those with parental responsibility or permission from the court. However, this does not mean that, just because a residence order is not in place, anyone can change a child's name or remove a child from the UK without the permission of all those with parental responsibility or an order of the court (see parental responsibility and taking children abroad).
A person with a residence order in their favour, may take the child referred to out of the UK for periods of less than one month without consent of the other person or a court order. The person without the residence order needs to seek consent if they wish to take that child abroad.
A residence order can have important implications on the future arrangements for a child and it is important to obtain specific legal advice on your circumstances before making an application to the court or agreeing to a residence order being made.
If you have any questions, please contact our Family Law Specialists.