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What is a child arrangements order?
If you are going through a divorce or separation, making the right arrangements for your children is likely to be a major concern. A child arrangements order will set out the way in which a range of parenting issues will be dealt with, providing a level of certainty and stability for your family.
If you and your child’s other parent are able to agree on parenting matters, the court can be asked to seal your agreement into a binding child arrangements order. If you are not able to agree, then other steps can be taken to secure an order, such as mediation and, as a last resort, litigation.
In this article, we take a look at child arrangements, including:
- How do you get a child arrangements order?
- Negotiation and mediation
- Asking the court for a child arrangements order
- How long does it take to get a child arrangements order?
- How long does a child arrangements order last in the UK?
- What is an interim child arrangements order?
- How much does a child arrangements order cost?
- Can I get Legal Aid for a child arrangements order?
For specific advice on obtaining a child arrangements order in the UK, please get in touch with our family law solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contact your local Crisp & Co office.
How can you get a child arrangements order?
While a child arrangements order is not compulsory, it can be helpful to all concerned to have a plan in place so that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities and what is expected of them. Sometimes referred to as a ‘live with order’, a child arrangements order will set out who has the main day to day care of a child as well as other related matters.
The courts prefer that parents work together to agree on arrangements for their child wherever possible. You can include what you want in the order, with the following issues frequently dealt with:
- Where the child will live
- When the child will see their other parent
- Where these visits will take place
- What will happen in the school holidays
- Who else in the family the child will see
- How the child will keep in contact with the parents when they are not together, for example, by phone, text message or email
If you are able to agree on the arrangements with your child’s other parent, then the court can be asked to approve these and seal them into a binding child arrangements order.
Negotiation and mediation
If you cannot agree, we can enter into negotiations with your child’s other parent and their solicitor to try and find a solution. If this is not possible, the next stage is usually mediation. Unless there has been domestic violence in your relationship, you will be required to at least consider mediation before you can ask the court to intervene.
We can arrange for you to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or MIAM at which a neutral mediator will explain the mediation process to you and explore whether there are ways in which it could assist you. If you decide to go ahead, mediation can help you and your child’s other parent work together to put the right arrangements in place for your child.
You will not have a decision imposed upon you by a mediator and they will not push you into signing an agreement, but their input can assist couples in understanding how to reduce conflict and work together to find solutions.
Again, if you are able to work out child arrangements that are acceptable to you both, the court can be asked to approve these and seal them into a binding child arrangements order.
Asking the court for a child arrangements order
If you cannot reach compromise to reach a solution, then an application can be made to the court. In making a decision, the court will always prioritise what’s best for your child. The Court will ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service or Cafcass to visit your family and prepare a report to help it make its decision.
In deciding the terms of a court order for a child, the court will also look at the welfare checklist, as set out in section 1 of the Children Act 1989, as follows:
- The child’s wishes and feelings in light of their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The like effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristic
- Any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering
- The capability of each parent to meet the child’s needs
- The powers available to the court
How long does it take to get a child arrangements order?
The length of time taken to obtain a child arrangements order will depend on whether you are able to agree on the terms with your child’s other parent. If you are, the court can be asked to make this into an order and the process can potentially be completed within around six months.
If you are not able to agree and you need to go through mediation it will take considerably longer. Where litigation is necessary, it can take a year or longer and will depend on the number of reports and court hearings required. The family law courts tend to have backlogs, meaning it can be a long wait between appointments.
How long does a child arrangements order last in the UK?
A child arrangements order will normally last until a child is 16, unless the court decides to put it in place for longer, until the child is 17 or 18. Once a child reaches the age of 16, the court assumes that the child will be able to have their own input into how much time they will spend with each parent.
What is an interim child arrangements order?
An interim child arrangements order is a temporary order that the court can make while it gathers the evidence and reports needed to enable it to make a permanent order.
How much does a child arrangements order cost?
The legal costs of obtaining a child arrangements order will depend on how long the process takes. If you and your child’s other parent are able to agree on the contents of the order and simply need the court to approve them, the costs will be relatively modest. If you would like an estimate, please feel free to call us and we will be happy to provide one.
In some cases where the process is lengthy and involves substantial reports and litigation is necessary, costs can be more substantial.
At Crisp & Co we understand that costs will be of concern to you and we always work to make sure we offer the best possible value for money. We offer a free one hour virtual consultation. This will enable you to discuss the issues surrounding your case so that we can give you an initial estimate of the likely costs.
We always provide regular costs information each month throughout a case so that you know exactly where you stand. We will make sure that you have a lawyer with the right level of expertise for your case.
We offer a ‘pay as you go’ service, allowing you to pay a sum upfront so that your costs are paid in advance and you have complete control over expenditure.
Can I get Legal Aid for a child arrangements order?
Legal Aid is only available in domestic abuse cases or where your child is at risk of harm from a parent.
At Crisp & Co we have a fixed fee scheme available for clients with limited means. We also work with barristers who offer fixed or reduced fees to these clients.
Why choose a Crisp & Co child arrangements solicitor?
Our family law and child arrangements solicitors have been providing expert advice and representation to clients for over 20 years. Family law is our sole focus, meaning we have a high level of expertise and understanding of this complex area of law.
We understand how difficult it is to deal with the breakdown of a relationship, in particular in respect of arrangements for children. You will find our family lawyers to be friendly and sympathetic and we will always do all we can to provide you with the support and guidance you need.
Our family law team includes several members of Resolution, the family law group committed to removing conflict and finding solutions without the need for litigation. We also have trained collaborative lawyers who are experts in dealing with disputes out of court. Collaborative law involves roundtable discussions between the parties to try and find an acceptable solution.
We also work with clients in other forms of alternative dispute resolution wherever possible, including mediation. Dealing with matters without the need for court intervention has many advantages. It is usually faster and more cost-effective and can also help those involved to work together to find solutions. This can be particularly important in issues relating to children, where parents will be working together to care for them for the foreseeable future.
We have a strong track record of success in helping clients resolve issues outside of the courtroom. We are also known for the excellent level of service and support that we provide.
For more information, see the questions and answers on our Child Arrangements Order page.
Get in touch with our child arrangements order solicitors in London & South East England
For advice and representation in obtaining a child arrangements order in the UK, please get in touch and a child arrangements solicitor will be able to help you.