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Child Arrangement Orders

Child Arrangement Orders are typically used when there is a dispute between separated parents or families about childcare arrangements. These orders are made by the Family Court and help the adults involved to reach a child-focused agreement if they have been unable to reach consensus through negotiation and mediation.

If you find yourself involved in this type of dispute, we can help. We provide honest, straightforward advice and representation to help resolve matters as quickly and effectively as possible.

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

A Child Arrangement Order can apply to one or more children. It will set out:

  • Where your children will live (child residence).
  • When they should spend time with their other parent and how the child contact will occur.

The court's overarching consideration will be the welfare of the child and the primary approach will be that it is beneficial for children to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents unless it would put them at risk to do so.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangement Order?

Any parent or guardian can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. You also have the right to apply if:

  • You have lived with the child for three of the previous five years – applications must be made within three months of the child no longer living with you.
  • You have parental responsibility.
  • You were in a marriage or civil-partnership where the child was part of your family – this includes stepparents and non-biological parents.
  • The child is in care, and the local authority gives permission for the order to be made

If you do not fall into one of these categories, you must seek the court’s permission to make an application. The court will look at your relationship with the child, whether such an order is in the child’s best interests and any risk of harm to which the child might be exposed as a consequence of an order being made.

Another name for custody and access

Child Arrangement Orders (previously known as Child Contact and Residence Orders) deal with issues of custody and access, although these terms are no longer used in the legal language of Family Law matters.

When people disagree over matters relating to children it is typically about where the children will live and how contact will be maintained, however, disputes may also occur relating to other matters, including provisions for schooling, medical care and religious issues. To address these issues, it may be necessary to apply for the following court orders:

Specific Issue Order

Specific Issue Orders are used to decide disputes relating to parental responsibility. This may include:

  • Which school the children should attend
  • Whether the child should receive medical treatment
  • What (if any) religious education the child should receive
  • Whether a parent may move overseas with the children

The last of these – taking a child abroad to live – can be a particularly complicated matter. It may amount to a criminal offence to remove a child from their country of residence without either the permission of the other parent or a court order. Seeking legal advice in these circumstances is essential.

Prohibited Steps Orders

Prohibited Steps Orders can ask the court to prevent one parent from taking a particular action. Examples include:

  • Preventing the parent from removing the child from the parent with care, without their permission
  • Preventing the parent from removing the child from the country
  • Preventing the parent from arranging a particular medical treatment for the child

Before you apply to the Family Law Court

As with all matters relating to children, it is best if you and the other parent can agree on the ways you will look after and bring up your children. If you cannot agree and you intend to make an application to the Court for any of the above orders, you will typically be required to attend a mediation and assessment meeting (MIAM) to identify whether you and the other party would be able to reach an agreement with some guidance from an independent and specially trained third party.

You will not need to attend a MIAM if you have been subjected to domestic abuse or the other party is putting your children at risk of harm. In these circumstances, it is always a good idea to seek specialised legal advice so that you can understand your options. We can provide the legal assistance you need in this respect.

Consent orders

If you and the other parent have previously agreed a Statement of Arrangements or a Parenting Plan in relation to your children, you may wish to apply to the court to turn this into a legally binding Consent Order.

We can assist you by drafting the document so that an application can be made to the court for approval. You do not need to attend a MIAM if you are applying for a Consent Order.

Contact our child law solicitor in Clapham, London

When you instruct Goodsells Family Law you can rest assured that our primary focus will be on your children's welfare. We will listen carefully and sensitively to your personal circumstances and provide you with all the information you need regarding your options.

In certain cases, it is necessary to act fast in order to safeguard your children and you can trust us to be there when you need legal advice and guidance most.

For more information on Child Arrangement Orders, and other child law orders call Goodsells Family Law on 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.