It can be challenging to reach an agreement following a relationship breakdown. However, it is important to agree where your child will live and how much time they will spend with the other parent. In the event that one parent is not engaging with discussions or is not willing to compromise, you may need to consider what options are available from the court including a Child Arrangement Order. Our dedicated family team are here to support you and offer free 30 minute initial consultations.
A Child Arrangement Order is an order made by the court detailing whom the children live with and what time they spend with the parent that they do not live with.
For example, if you and your partner have separated and you want your child to live with you, but cannot agree on this, then you will need to apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order. Similarly, you may have agreed that your child will live with one parent but cannot agree the amount of time that your child will spend with the non-resident parent.
The court may regulate a child’s living arrangements by:
We always encourage our clients to try to reach an agreement with the other parent without applying to court for a Child Arrangement Order. This is the best situation for the children as it allows for flexibility and the parents to work to a plan that suits both them and the children. Negotiations between solicitors or attending mediation can also achieve an agreement without the need to go to court.
Of course, in some situations, these approaches may not possible and a court application becomes the only method to move the situation forward.
Before applying, we would advise that you seek legal advice to discuss your situation to ensure all avenues are exhausted. If a court application is necessary, you are usually required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you are able to submit an application to court. The aim of this is to see if an agreement can be reached through mediation rather than court.
If a party refuses to attend the MIAM or an exemption applies to the requirement to attend a MIAM or a mediator considers that none of the other methods of dispute resolution are suitable or appropriate, an application must be made to the court.
Do not panic. Simply because an application is made to the court, does not mean that a Judge will have to make a decision regarding your children. It is possible to continue negotiations directly with the other parent whilst in the court process to attempt to reach an earlier resolution. However, it is of course very important that you ensure that you are complying with any Court Order and must attend any court date.
Having received the application, you are likely to be contacted by CAFCASS on the telephone fairly soon after. CAFCASS is an independent organisation that are tasked with considering any safeguarding matters. This is entirely normal and part of the process.
The courts do not favour either parent. Their main consideration is the welfare of the children. The court will carefully consider what is in the children’s best interests by looking at the picture as a whole.
The court is assisted in reaching its conclusion by CAFCASS. CAFCASS will sometimes provide the court with the children’s wishes and feelings depending on the age of the children.
Most court proceedings and records are private. However, on limited occasions information can be published such as if media reporting is allowed.
Being named as a person with whom a child is to live means that you have the right to take the child abroad for a holiday for up to one month without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court.
A parent who is not named as the person with whom the child lives does not have this right. However, if the other parent does not agree with them taking the child abroad, they can apply to the court for a specific issue order to take the child abroad. If the person named as the person with whom the child lives wants to take the child abroad for longer than one month, they would have to apply for a specific issue order in the same way.
If a party does not comply with the order an application can be made to the court. The court can then impose a sanction for lack of compliance and put measures in place to ensure compliance moving forward.
The court understand that circumstances may change and therefore it is possible to apply for a variation of the order. It is important to do this rather than not comply with it. Our solicitors can provide advise and assist with the variations if you are able to agree changes with the other parent or use mediation as a suitable tool to resolve any disputes. If an agreement cannot be reached you can apply to the court to vary a Child Arrangement Order.
The order regulates with whom a child is to spend time with until the child is 16 years old, or 18 years old in exceptional circumstances. The court can also stipulate the duration in the order. The order regulates with whom the child is to live with until the child is 18 years old. If a child’s parents live together for a continuous period of more than six months after the order has been made the order will end automatically.
Our family law team are experienced with helping parents in regards to arrangements for their children. We will provide specialist advice as to whether applying for a Child Arrangement Order is a suitable resolution or how to handle the process if you have been served one. Please contact one of our family specialists in our Newbury, Thatcham or Maidenhead offices below to discuss your situation.