We no longer use Custody as a legal term. Parents automatically have joint parental responsibility for making long term decisions about their children and only under serious circumstances will the Court make an order that one parent have sole parental responsibility. Your children may live equal time with each of their parents after separation or they may live with one parent and spend time with the other parent. Very rarely will the Court make an order that the children do not spend any time with one of their parents.
The best arrangements you can have for parenting your children will be the one you and your ex-partner work out between yourselves. You made decisions about your children before you separated and even though you have separated you should continue to make decisions about your children.
How can you work out your own future parenting arrangements?
Firstly, you need to gather all of the information you need to negotiate such as, information from the Child Support Agency and Centre Link.
Try to keep in mind that it will be easier for both of you, and the children, if you co-operate with each other to care for the children. If you do, you should be able to separate issues about your personal relationship, which has now ended, from joint parenting considerations that will continue for the life of your children. Remember, one day you are likely to have grandchildren.
If you work out an arrangement that suits you there is no reason for you to do anymore unless you feel it is necessary to put the arrangements in writing. You can write a Parenting Plan if you wish. It is however, worthwhile to get legal advice about anything you put in writing before you sign it.
The Legal Aid Commission, or a Community Legal Service may have a family law clinic near you that you can attend to get legal advice. You may decide to see a private lawyer, but remember lawyers are obliged to emphasize legal implications they are trained to focus on. Listen to the advice but the choice about what you do is yours. Legal rights are rarely the major consideration for parents making decisions about their children.
You are likely to need to consider the financial consequences of your agreement, including Centre Link and Child Support benefits or liabilities. If as a consequence of your agreement you will not be able to afford accommodation, food and clothing for you and your children, seek further assistance and advice before making the agreement. The arrangements you make should be in the best interests of your children and that includes being able to financially support them.