Going through a divorce or separation is an extremely emotional and stressful experience. When there are children in the picture, the emotion and the stress involved increases greatly.
If you and your ex-partner cannot seem to come to an agreement about what will happen to your child, the courts may be able to help.
A child arrangements order is a legal agreement made between you, your ex-partner/spouse, and the court. This is used to set out both the plans and the conditions needed to ensure your child’s living arrangements are made with their best interests at heart.
What specifications are set in a Child Arrangements Order?
Typically, a child arrangements order will specify a number of different conditions about where a child will live and whom they have contact with.
A child arrangements order will govern issues like:
⦁ who the custodial and non-custodial parents or guardians will be, and
⦁ when and where the child will spend time with the non-custodial parent; for example, if it will be at weekends, after-school, or at monthly visits at either the non-custodial parent’s home or in a public place.
The arrangement order should also confirm what kinds of contact the child is able to have with the non-custodial parent, be it by phone calls, text, or email, as well as all other issues regarding the child’s welfare.
The aim of a child arrangements order is to set firm rules in place for both parents in accordance with the court to make sure the child’s wellbeing and needs are put first.
Types of court order
Child arrangements orders were created to replace both residence orders and contact orders, however if you already have these in place you won’t need to reapply. If you need any further advice, speak to a family solicitor.
The type of court order you need will depend on whatever it is you and the child’s other parent are disagreeing on. Even if there are only one or two points that may need to be worked out, a Child arrangements order can help to save you a great deal of time and avoid arguments, since the court will make the final decision for you in the best interest of your child.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
In most cases, a child arrangement order is granted to parents that are divorcing or otherwise ending their relationship. In some cases, however, child arrangement orders can be granted in other situations.
People who can apply for a child arrangement order could include:
⦁ A parent, guardian, or special guardian.
⦁ Someone who currently has parental responsibility of the child.
⦁ A person in a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a member of the family, even if they are not biologically related.
⦁ Anyone who has a residence order for the child, or who has lived with the child for three years or more.
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 an unfit parent.
How to apply for a child arrangements order
If you and your ex-partner have been unable to make arrangements for your child yourselves, you will need to start a process called mediation.
You’ll be invited to a compulsory mediation information and assessment meeting, where you will both speak with a trained professional to determine whether your situation can be resolved through mediation.
If you are unable to reach an agreement about custody and any other issues relating to your child outside through mediation appointments, you can then apply to the court for a child arrangements order.
Applying to the Court
When you apply, you’ll be given a date for a hearing, attended by both parents, your solicitors, and a judge, as well as an Officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).
The magistrates or judge will then encourage the parents to make an agreement in the best interests of the child’s emotional, physical and educational needs. This may take more than one hearing,
There will be a call for evidence and witness statements, and it is not unusual for your child’s thoughts on the issue to be read to the court. The final decision will then be put into an order of the court.
A family law solicitor can provide professional advice and support for parents struggling with a custodial dispute, whether you end up making a child arrangements order in court or not.
Please call 03330096275 to speak to one of the UK’s leading family law solicitors, Ashmans Solicitors.
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