The family department discusses what a child arrangement order is and the importance of seeking advice.
A Child arrangements order sets out contact with a minor. These usually include where they live and frequency that they see each parent until they are 18 years old.
These are usually used when parents are unable to agree on the details for a child’s care.
The principal consideration for the court is the child’s welfare.
These orders are legally binding and therefore any failure to follow could end with that person in contempt of court. Punishments range from fines to in the extreme cases imprisonment.
Do you need a Child Arrangement Order?
Before seeking a court order, you should attempt to prepare a plan for care with the other party.
Remember that you need to establish the rules for care and if you cannot reach an agreement you might want to appoint a mediator like one of our family solicitors.
If you are unable to come to an arrangement, then you will need to apply for a court order.
Who can apply?
A child arrangement order can be applied for by a parent, guardian, a person with parental responsibility, a person with a residence order or someone who the child has resided with for three years or more.
If you are not one of those, such as a grandparent, then you would need to obtain permission from the court prior to applying for the order.
What should be included in a child arrangement order?
The order should include three main points: who is responsible for them and when, where they live and how often they see each parent or guardian.
Remember that the order may even set out how parents or guardians contact the child.
This could mean that they live weekdays with one parent in one home and with the other of weekends.
I want to apply for a child arrangement order, how do I?
The first element is that you have exhausted any mediation options and therefore have a signed mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) form. This form outlines that you were presented a series of options and that an application for a child arrangement order is your selected choice.
The application includes what order you are proposing and the reasoning for it. You should set out precisely your arguments with particular emphasis on the three points above.
There are exemptions depending on the nature of the application such as if you are alleging domestic abuse or a potentially harmful environment.
What should I put in my application?
It is imperative to get advice, therefore we would suggest contacting our family team.
Our family team helps to outline the following:
- The child’s situation including their age, schooling, sex and background;
- Your capability to meet the client’s needs
- The child’s wishes;
- Any specific needs;
- Any negative effect on the child for not granting the order; and
- Whether the child is exposed to any harm or potential harm.
What happens next?
The court arranges a First Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA), which reviews and identifies any conflicts between the parties. It attempts to seek a possible resolution so they can reach an amicable agreement. A Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is directed to advice on the case.
This is likely to lead to a Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA), which may include the need for expert evidence.
If the DRA fails to resolve the matter, then the court orders a Fact Finding Hearing (FFH) to include all the evidence. We would help you to prepare evidence required and detail the case. The court reviews the evidence and outlines findings.
Once the court is satisfied with the presentation of evidence and each party’s case, they organise a Final Hearing, which ultimately outlines court order.
What if the other party is not complying with the order?
It is serious if one party is not complying with a court order, as described earlier. However, despite the potential punishments, many do not comply with them.
Our first advice is to record any breaches of order with dates. It is important to paint a picture of the issues encountered.
First option is to try and resolve any breach amicably with the other party. We can help mediate, get in touch with our family team today.
If mediation has not worked then you can apply for an enforcement order from the court. These orders are held within 20 days of the application.
What if we have decided to be more flexible but already have a court order?
Many couples decide that they want to be more flexible once relationships mend or child gets older. You can vary an order, but it is important that you seek the advice of our specialists first so that ensure that any variation is done properly and, in the child’s, best interest.