What is a Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangements Order is a legally binding order specifying where a child will live and who a child will spend time with.
There is a presumption that is in a child’s best interests to spend time with both parents unless there is a good reason why this should not be the case.
What other options should I consider before applying to court?
Making an application to court should be considered a last resort option. Private children proceedings can be costly and time consuming. Legal Aid is very limited in private children proceedings and court action can impact your ongoing relationship as co-parents therefore it is advisable to consider other options first.
Can you reach an agreement directly with your ex-partner? There are many online resources for separated parents including parenting plans which cover practical arrangements after separation. CAFCASS (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) have a number of helpful free resources on their website.
Another option to consider is mediation. Mediation is a process whereby an independent third party helps you and your ex-partner reach an agreement about your children following separation. A further option to consider if you need assistance communicating with your ex-partner is instructing a solicitor who will be able to write to your ex-partner and negotiate on your behalf.
Do I need to attend mediation before making an application for a Child Arrangements Order?
Yes, you must attend a Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before applying to court unless you fall within one of the exemptions, for example, if there has been domestic abuse or if your child is on a Child Protection Plan.
How do I apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
To begin the process, you should complete a Form C100 and submit to your local court along with the court fee which is currently £215. If you have concerns about risk of harm to your child by the other parent, you should also complete a Form C1A.
How many court hearings will there be?
There are typically three hearings in private children proceedings. It usually takes between 8 – 10 weeks for the first hearing to be listed unless you have marked your application as urgent (and if the court agrees the application should be heard urgently).
Can you vary a Child Arrangements Order?
Yes, you can vary a Child Arrangements Order if you consider the arrangements are no longer suitable, for example, if the order was made when your child was young and their needs have changed. You can apply to court to vary the order.
When does a Child Arrangements Order end?
The order will remain in place until the child turns 16 years old unless the order specifies otherwise.