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Should Separated Parents Change a Child’s Arrangements Order?

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A child arrangements order is an agreement under English family law that states a child's living arrangements and with whom they can have contact and spend time with. The term 'Child Arrangements Order' is an umbrella term that replaces 'custody', 'child access', or 'residence arrangements'. These are often required after the breakdown of a relationship. 


Once a child arrangements order has been made, we would recommend that this is only changed if absolutely necessary, due to the disruption and stress that this can cause a child. However, there are some circumstances in which a change to the arrangement order is unavoidable. These include:


. If there is evidence of abuse or neglect from one of the parents.

. If the child develops a medical condition or disability that means that only one parent is able to effectively support their needs. 

. If one of the parents moves away.

. If one of the parents experiences a change in circumstances that means that their current arrangements are unworkable, such as a change in job or work location.


What happens if you want to amend a child arrangements order?


It is recommended that the parents or guardians of the child should discuss this in the first instance to consider the proposed changes and negotiate a possible solution. If parents can agree on a new arrangement, then this will likely save time and money in the long run. If parents are unable to agree on the proposed changes, then a family mediator can be engaged. While mediation isn't necessary, this is a step that's encouraged by Family Courts to reach an amicable agreement. 


If the mediation is not successful, the child arrangements order can be varied by applying to the court. This can be achieved by completing a form and filing it with the court. Once this has been filed, the court will send a copy of this to the other parent or guardian involved, to allow them to respond to the application.


When applying to change or vary a child arrangement order, it is important to consider the impact that any changes will have on the child's welfare, as this will be the priority of the court. The court will also consider the child's wishes and feelings, the parents’ wishes, and the parents’ ability to meet the child's needs. In order to comply with the Children Act 1989, the court will only make an order if the court is satisfied that the amendment is in the child’s best interests and will improve the child’s quality of life, as opposed to the effect of making no amendment to the original order. 


If you need support in reviewing or amending your child arrangements order, Donna Goodsell can offer advice carefully tailored to your specific situation and guide you through the process. We are also able to assist with making an appeal application if this is required.

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