Child Arrangement Orders
When a marriage breaks down and there are children involved, the parents should be able to amicably agree on where the children will live, and when the non-resident parent will have contact. Sometimes, however, parents just cannot agree on these details.
If you have tried to come to an agreement yourselves, but have not succeeded, you might want to consider Mediation. In Mediation, a professional mediator will meet with you (and your ex-partner) to help you both come to an agreement over the living arrangements for your children.
However, if the mediator does not think Mediation will help, your last and final option is to go to Court to get a Child Arrangements Order.
Contact Ashmans Solicitors now for your free, no-obligation enquiry. You can email us at email@example.com – or call us on 0333 009 6275.
What are Child Arrangements Orders?
A Child Arrangements Order is a legal agreement between the court and the parents/guardians of a child. These Orders ensure that the child’s living arrangements are always decided in their best interests.
The court will decide who the child will live with and how much time the other parent can spend with the child.
Child Arrangements Orders have replaced Residence Orders and Contact Orders, but if these are already in place, you won’t need to reapply. An Order usually lasts until the child is 16-18 years old.
Who Can Apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
Only some people can apply for a Child Arrangements Order without the permission of the Court. They are:
- A parent, guardian or special guardian of the child;
- Someone who has Parental Responsibility;
- Someone who already has a Residence Order for that child;
- Any spouse or civil partner, if the child is part of that family; and,
- Someone who the child has lived with for at least three years.
The child’s grandparents or other relatives may also be able to apply, with the permission of the court, if:
⦁ one or both of the parents has died, or
⦁ one or both parents is believed to be unfit as a parent.
Anyone else who wants to seek a Child Arrangements Order can only do so if they apply to the court for permission.
Once a Child Arrangements Order is made by the Court, the person or people named in that Order have Parental Responsibility for the child or children until the Order comes to an end.
What is Custody/Residence?
In cases of Divorce or Separation, Residence (sometimes called “Custody”) describes where and with whom a child under the age of 16 lives. Usually, the child lives with one or both parents or sometimes with members of his/her extended family. Disputes can arise though, where two people have parental rights and disagree about where the child should live.
Where it is not possible to resolve the dispute another way, you can apply to the court for a Residence Order, which will state with whom the child should live. This can include a shared-living agreement. Once the order has been granted, Parental Responsibility for the children goes to the person with whom the children will be living.
A person who does not have Parental Responsibility can also apply to the court for a Residence Order. This might be the case for a grandparent, if it is not suitable for the child to reside with his or her parents.
If you are thinking of applying for a Residence Order, first contact Ashmans Solicitors Family Law Team. Our experts can help you with their informative and professional advice.
What is Defined as ‘Contact’ with a Child?
When a relationship breaks down and a parent moves out of the family home, they will naturally want to spend time with their child/children. This is called having ‘contact’ with the child. There are different types of contact, including supervised contact, direct and indirect contact. The law says that contact is ‘a right of the child’ and not the parent.
Contact is not limited to parents, as relatives and anyone else who has had a close relationship with a child may ask a parent for ‘reasonable contact’.
How are Contact Arrangements Made?
Unless there is a Court Order that prevents this, a parent should be able to change contact times by discussion with the other parent. However, once contact times are agreed, neither parent should change them without agreement.
The parents should also agree as to who should pick up or drop off the child for contact. Once agreed upon, the parents should try to stick to the set times as closely as possible, but allowances should be made for traffic and travel delays.
Contact can be refused if there is very good reason for doing so, i.e. an issue of safety or violence. However, if there is already a court order in place for contact, refusal to allow the contact to take place may amount to contempt of court and could lead to further legal action. To avoid this, an application should be made for a variation of the existing Contact Order (Child Arrangements Order).
If a non-resident parent is failing to take up contact granted by a Child Arrangements Order, it is best to think about what is in the child’s best interests before making an application for enforcement of the order.
It is not though possible to force a non-resident parent to have contact where no Court Order exists.
Ashmans Solicitors Family Law Team are here for you. Their many years of experience means that they can identify exactly the right type of contact needed in your situation and will help you to apply for a Court Order, if one is necessary.
What the Courts Consider
The purpose of the Child Arrangements Order is to ensure that the child’s welfare comes first. In making a decision, the courts consider a number of different factors:
- The wishes and feelings of the child.
- The child’s emotional, physical, and educational needs.
- Whether the child has suffered any kind of abuse or neglect, or is in danger of doing so.
- The ability of the child’s parents or guardians to meet the child’s needs.
- The effects on the child of any changes in circumstances, brought about as a result of the Order.
Whatever your concerns for your child or children, please contact the Family Law Team at Ashmans Solicitors for help and guidance. We are a family-centric law firm and always place the interests of your children first.
In certain circumstances you may qualify for Legal Aid – please see our page on Legal Aid.
All enquiries are welcome.
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