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What Are Typical Child Contact Arrangements?

Understanding what a typical child contact arrangement looks like can be difficult, since parenting situations can differ widely across individual cases. After divorce or separation, the child will usually live with whichever parent has child custody, and the other parent will need to agree to child contact arrangements.

A child contact arrangement order will decide where the non-residing parent can see their child, and also when they have contact with their child.

Making child contact arrangements following a separation or divorce is often stressful and logistically taxing. Depending on the state of your relationship with your ex-partner, you may reach an agreement quickly and amicably. For conflicting parents, however, legal assistance is often required to reach an agreement.


What do child contact arrangements typically look like?

Typical child contact arrangements will allow the non-resident parent to see and spend time with their child, although the duration of which they are permitted to spend with the child can vary among cases.

Typical visitation periods can vary. Some contact arrangements may allow the non-resident parent to spend long periods of time with the child for weeks at a time. Although, some child contact arrangements may only allow the parent to visit the child for as little as a few hours.

In many cases, children stay overnight at their other parent’s home on a regular basis. In other cases, children may regularly see the other parent for a shorter period of time on a weekend. 

The type of child contact arrangement that is agreed in court will depend on individual circumstances, and what is believed to be in the best interest of the child’s welfare. For instance, typical child contact arrangements will fit around the parents’ commitments and financial practicalities. If your child is still relatively young, these child contact arrangements are likely to change over time.


Considerations for child contact agreements

There are several practicalities to consider when considering your child contact agreement. Together with the other parent, you should consider what is most practical financially, geographically and logistically. Parents who move abroad or have highly demanding jobs, for example, may not be able to see their child as much as those who remain local.

Additionally, you should consider the kind of arrangement that would be most beneficial for the child’s welfare. If the child is old enough to make decisions for themselves, you may wish to prioritise their preferences about where they wish to reside. Many children enjoy spending a night or two a week at their non-resident parent’s house, for example, while others prefer to keep visitation periods to daytime hours.


Typical forms of child contact agreement

Here are a few examples of typical child contact arrangements to help guide your decisions:

Sole residency arrangements

Often, the children of separated parents live with just one parent at a primary residence. 

This parent has custody, whilst the other can spend time with the child at intervals set out in a contact agreement. While mothers still make up the overwhelming majority of resident parents, the number of fathers taking sole residency responsibilities is rising.

This custody arrangement remains one of the most popular as it provides children with a sense of stability and security, benefits that are fundamental to healthy emotional development. For some parents, however, sole residency arrangements are unfeasible as they prevent the non-resident parent from enjoying a close relationship with their child.


Joint residency arrangements

Joint residency agreements involve the child splitting their time between both parents and moving between residencies regularly. Such arrangements are not particularly common in the UK, but they are becoming more popular as fathers adopt an increasingly active role in their children’s lives.

Joint residency arrangements are often preferable in cases where children have a strong relationship with both parents. They are also great for working parents hoping to juggle professional responsibilities with child-rearing responsibilities.

Practically speaking, however, joint residency arrangements can cause difficulties and disputes. Successfully navigating shared custody involves meticulous planning, with parents having to communicate regularly about domestic tasks such as washing uniforms or signing forms for school trips. In this way, an amicable relationship between both parents is a must.


Bird’s nest arrangements

With a bird’s nest arrangement, the child in question remains in the family home, while both parents move between this primary residency and a smaller property. This form of parenting represents a child-first approach to separation as it reduces much of the stress young people feel when moving to a new home.  

While bird’s nest parenting can be hugely beneficial to children, it can take a financial and emotional toll on parents. Moving between two properties on a weekly or monthly basis can be tiring and unsettling and can sometimes stoke resentments between ex-partners.


Flexible solutions arrangements

The aforementioned arrangements don’t have to be set in stone. Sometimes, a combination of sole and joint residency solutions is implemented to align with parents’ schedules and commitments. As such, the amount of time a child spends with each parent from week to week could vary widely.

Flexible arrangements often suit parents whose jobs involve lots of travel or complicated shift patterns. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the unpredictability of this form of parenting can be disorienting and upsetting for younger children.


Organising contact around school commitments

During term-time, non-resident parents typically reduce contact time to ensure their child can focus on their schoolwork, attend after-school activities, and maintain a regular sleeping pattern. 

Possible solutions include an arrangement whereby the child stays overnight with the non-resident parent on alternate weekends. The agreement could involve school-drop offs and pick-ups to ensure the non-resident parent enjoys as much time as possible with their child.  

If overnight stays are out of the question due to work commitments or other practicalities, the arrangement could involve a few hours of contact time every week with the non-resident parent.


Organising contact around school holidays 

School holidays represent an opportunity for parents to enjoy more flexible residency arrangements. If a non-resident parent wishes to spend more time with their child while they’re off school, however, it is important to arrange plans in advance. 

If possible, try to spread contact time out equally between parents. It is also important to discuss whether either parent wishes to take the child abroad at any point. If one parent does not agree to the other taking the child on holiday, the former may require permission from the courts to go ahead with their plans.


Celebrating special occasions

Making arrangements for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, or Easter can be difficult. Possible solutions could involve alternating where the child spends their time from year to year or arranging two Christmases – one on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day.


Struggling to reach a child contact agreement? Austin Kemp is here to help 

If you’ve recently separated from a partner and want to discuss your child contact arrangements with a trained legal professional, do not hesitate to reach out to Austin Kemp. We offer discreet legal services for high-net-worth individuals experiencing child custody disputes. Whatever your situation, our highly qualified experts are on hand to listen and work towards your desired outcome. Contact our family law solicitors today to arrange a consultation.

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14th January 2022

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