Family Law Solicitors

Child Arrangement Order

When a relationship ends, parents need to agree on any child arrangements. If this cannot be agreed informally then you need a child arrangement order from the courts.

What is a child arrangement order?

A child arrangement order is required when parents cannot agree on the contact each has with a child. They have previously been referred to as contact orders.

Orders outline both the direct and indirect contact that a parent has with a child. This includes the time spent and the communication routes they have.

Direct contact is face-to-face, which would include overnight stays, visits, and day trips.

Whereas indirect contact would be calls, text messages, emails, and other correspondence. It would also include elements such as school reports, medical information, or photos of key events. The order may require that indirect communication is funneled through a named person.

This individual or a contact centre might be named in the order to supervise any direct or indirect contact depending on the situation.

How do we decide where the child stays?

You need to decide between the two of you where the child should stay and when they stay there. It might be that one parent has the child full-time or could be that one parent has the child during the week and the other on the weekend. Each situation is different.

When deciding your child’s living arrangements you should establish which of you has more time to provide childcare. It might be the case that one parent can provide more care to children on one day and the other on a separate day.

Further, you should think about the logistics. If your child is at school in one area, then it may make sense for them to stay with the parent closest to the school. It is sensible to plan future arrangements in advance, if you are aware of any changes to the child’s lifestyle then factor that into your arrangements.

Our experts guide clients through various scenarios helping parents to make decisions on the child arrangements.

What if we cannot agree on the logistics?

In most cases parents agree to protect the child’s interests, however many need the advice of experts like our child arrangement solicitors.

There are no set guidelines for reasonable contact; it all depends on the child and your circumstances. Every situation is different and therefore informal agreements may offer more flexibility to the parents.

If you cannot informally agree on a contact plan, then it is likely you need mediation. Our experts help clients navigate mediation and help everyone understand the needs of the child.

If there is still no hope of agreement, a court order is required. A child arrangement order must be followed and there is no flexibility.

Who is entitled to make a child arrangement order?

Contact with a parent is the right of the child and not the right of a parent. If a parent has parental responsibility, it does not provide the automatic right to contact with the child. Further, marriage does not give the automatic right to contact.

The child’s interests are at the heart of the court’s decision making, therefore contact with a parent should only be restricted to protect the child. There is an initial presumption that having both parents involved in the child’s upbringing is best unless proven otherwise.

What is supervised contact?

In some instances, it might be required for one parent to have supervised contact with the child. This might mean that another trusted person must be in attendance or that contact is only at a certain address.

Usually, the trusted person is another family member or mutual friend but a court might arrange a contact centre if there are welfare concerns.

Can a court refuse a parent contact?

Yes, but there must be a very good reason to prevent a parent seeing their child. The presumption is that both parents being around is in the child’s best interests. However, if there are safety issues for the child then contact could be refused.

If you have restricted the other parent from seeing the child, a judge may request an explanation as to why. If there is an original child arrangement order in place, then should apply for a variation to the order rather than unilaterally changing terms yourself.

What is reasonable contact?

It is advisable that you try to be reasonable with the activities that you do with your child. If you take them to activities that might be contentious with the other parent, then it may lead to further disputes. For example, if you decide to have a child’s ears pierced or take them to a religious event without discussing it, it could be detrimental to your relationship.

However, many contact orders have aspects built in for additional contact should an event fall outside of the rigid arrangements. So, if there is a wedding and both parents agree, the child may attend despite being outside of set contact dates and times.

Our solicitors help to establish what is a reasonable amount of contact for each party.

Process for a Child Arrangement Order

  1. Attempt to informally negotiate suitable contact between both parents. If successful create a plan for contact.
  2. Instruct a Child Arrangement Order Solicitor like us to help present your suggested contact arrangements to the other side. Our team offer a consultation to discuss your suggested arrangements and advise whether they are reasonable. Once we have an agreed arrangement suggestion, we present to the other side.
  3. If rejected, we organise mediation with the other side to try to reach an amicable solution. Once a suitable solution is found, we can apply for a Consent Order to ratify or leave informal depending on the outcome and relationship of the parents.
  4. If no suitable arrangement can be made, then we apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

What are the Child Arrangement Order costs?

We offer a series of options for costs depending on the situation. We may offer fixed fees for elements of our advice, otherwise we work on hourly rates.

You need to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) which is a separate charge. This cost depends on the provider.

Further, there is a £215 court fee to apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

Can I get Legal Aid for Child Arrangement Order?

Yes, you can access Legal Aid and get help with the costs for contact arrangements if you meet the financial requirements. If you are going to court, then you can also get help with the costs if there is evidence of abuse.

How can we help?

Our solicitors and experts have years of experience advising families on child arrangement orders. We offer advice on an individual basis specific to your situation. If you are looking for quality advice, great client service and reasonable fees then our family team can help. Get in touch for more information.

How should I sort an informal arrangement?
Open How should I sort an informal arrangement?

If you have agreed contact arrangements separately then it is important to jot this down. We suggest making a plan, we can help put this together for you.

You need to ensure that you both agree to the plan and have access to it.

If you want us to draft a contact arrangement plan, then get in touch with our family team.

What is the best way to contact my ex?
Open What is the best way to contact my ex?

Our mediation experts can initially act as messengers. However, we suggest that you work out suitable contact methods for emergencies.

Remember that your child is at the centre of this and providing a stable environment is the most import element. If you do not wish to speak to each other then use communication such as text messaging instead. This further helps any future legal disputes if you have a record of the communication.

How long does a Child Arrangement Order take?
Open How long does a Child Arrangement Order take?

The time is dependent on a number of factors including the complexity of the dispute and the relationship of the parents. The quickest way to achieve an order is through mediation, however if the matter is referred to court it is likely to take up to eight weeks from submission of the court forms.

This time might be increased should the court order further hearings and mediation. It could take up to a year to receive a final order.

Key Contacts

If you are looking for help and guidance or have a question relating to Child Arrangement Order, please contact us today on +44 (0)20 7242 1666.