Relationship breakdown is hard for every member of the family, especially children. We understand how important your child’s happiness is to you. If it isn’t possible to come to an agreement between you and your former partner, we can help you get a Child Arrangements Order.
At Crisp & Co, we provide specialist family law advice to families across London, the South West and beyond.
We believe in finding practical solutions that work for families in the long term. Even if it feels impossible at this stage, we are confident that we can help you overcome any challenges or conflict to ultimately reach a satisfactory outcome.
We are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation scheme for our expertise in handling complex family law cases, including matters involving children.
What is a Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that can be used to help parents going through a divorce or civil partnership dissolution work out arrangements for children.
A Child Arrangements Order will cover matters like:
- Where your child will live
- How much time they will spend with each parent
- Practical details such as what types of contact is suitable (e.g. supervised visits, phone calls, emails) and when the child will spend time with each parent
In many cases, parents are able to come to an agreement without involving the courts. However, we appreciate that there are also many cases where this is not possible. We can provide clear, sensitive advice tailored to your individual situation so you can make an informed decision about whether applying for a Child Arrangements Order is in your and your child’s best interests.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
A parent, guardian, or anyone with parental responsibility is able to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order.
Other people, such as grandparents, may also be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order but they need to obtain permission from the court first.
We can provide clear advice about your eligibility to apply for an Order, including handling the application process on your behalf.
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangements Order?
The process of getting a Child Arrangements Order involves making an application to court, so it can take a long time. You should expect the process to take at least several months but contested cases can drag on for over a year. Ultimately, the length of time it takes to get an Order will depend on your individual circumstances.
In situations where there are concerns such as risk of injury to your child or their removal to another country outside of the UK, you can make an emergency Child Arrangements Order application. An urgent hearing will usually be heard around 10 days from the date the application is issued.
How do I apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
Before you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order, you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (unless you are exempt). The purpose of this meeting is to decide whether you and your partner might benefit from mediation rather than resorting to court.
To make the application, you must fill in a court form and submit it with evidence that you have attended a MIAM or have otherwise tried to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve the matter. There is a court fee for making the application but you may be eligible for legal aid or fee remission to help with your costs if you are on a low income or receive benefits.
Once the court has issued your application, they will contact you to tell you when your hearing will be.
At the court hearing, the judge will probably enquire whether there is still a chance you and your former partner can come to a decision between yourselves. If you cannot, they may make an Order to resolve the issue or adjourn (postpone) the hearing until a later date.
We will support you throughout the entire process, including representing you in any hearings and presenting your case on your behalf.
Who are Cafcass and why are they involved in my case?
Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) is an organisation that represents the interests of children in family court cases in England. They ensure your child’s happiness, wishes and personal feelings are heard and taken into account.
Before your hearing, Cafcass will usually carry out safeguarding checks and give you a call to discuss any concerns you may have over your child’s safety and welfare. Cafcass will work with you and your former partner during the hearing and, if possible, help you find a resolution to the matter.
How does the court make a decision about child arrangements?
The court is required by law to make decisions that are entirely in the best interests of your child. This means even if you ask for a certain Order, the court may make a different Order if it is better for your child’s welfare. Although it can be worrying for a judge to make a decision about your family, it is usually considered to be in the child’s best interests to have regular, meaningful contact with both of their parents.
There are a number of factors that the courts take into account when deciding what is in the best interests of the child:
- The child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings (taking into account their age and understanding of the matter)
- The effect any change in circumstances will have on them
- Their physical, emotional and educational needs
- Whether they are at risk of harm or have suffered harm
- The capability of the parents to meet the child’s needs
- The child’s age, sex, background and other relevant characteristics
This is called the “welfare checklist”. The court also follow the “no order principle” – it will not make any order unless it is in the child’s best interests. This means it is never too late to come to an agreement with your former partner. If you are able to do so before the hearing, you can request that the judge makes your agreement legally binding in the form of a Consent Order.
How do I get a Child Arrangements Order changed?
There are three ways you can change a Child Arrangements Order:
- If you and your former partner both agree, you can choose to do something different without going back to court to change the Order. However, if one of you later changes your mind, you cannot enforce the change in court
- If you and your former partner both agree, you can apply to court for a Consent Order to record your new agreement. This makes the agreement legally binding and you can sue if your partner breaches it
- If you and your former partner cannot agree, you can ask the court to vary the Order
What happens if a Child Arrangements Order is breached?
If your former partner is not following the Child Arrangements Order, you can take them to court to enforce it. However, the court may not agree to enforce the Order if:
- They think your former partner has a good reason
- It is in your child’s best interests not to enforce it
Get advice about Child Arrangements Orders today