Obtaining a child arrangements order
If you and your child’s other parent are separating or divorcing, you will generally need to put in place new arrangements in respect of how you will parent your child.
If you are able to agree a parenting plan together, that is the very best answer. If you want more security, you can put the terms of parenting into a Parenting Agreement if you wish. If you are not able to agree on issues, this can make matters more difficult, and you may need help to resolve matters.
What issues are included in a child arrangements order?
A child arrangements order can include details in respect of a range of issues and will be tailored to the needs of your child. Issues that are commonly dealt with include:
- Who the child will live with
- How much time they will spend with the other parent and when this will happen
- What contact the child will have with a parent while they are spending time with the other parent, for example, texts, phone calls and emails
- Who else the child will see
- What will happen in the school holidays
Negotiating the terms of a child arrangements order
If you and your child’s other parent are finding it difficult to agree on issues, we can help to negotiate an acceptable solution. We will be able to discuss the situation with you and give you some honest advice about what you could expect if the Court was asked to intervene. We can enter into correspondence with the solicitor of your child’s other parent to try and negotiate and agree parenting terms.
If you are still unable to come to an agreement, you are usually required by law to consider mediation as a next step. An experienced family mediator will explain the process to you, and you will have the opportunity to consider whether you believe mediation will help you to work with your child’s other parent to make a parenting plan. If either of you do not want to attend mediation, the mediator will provide a certificate confirming that mediation has been considered so that you can take your case to Court.
Asking the Court to make a child arrangements order
If you need to go to Court to obtain a child arrangements order, the first hearing will be a Directions hearing where the Court will establish whether any agreement can be reached between the parents and, if not, future hearing(s) will be scheduled.
The Court is likely to ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to work with the family to prepare a report for the Court and make any recommendations they consider necessary.
In making a decision, the Court’s primary focus will be on what is in the best interests of the child. It will consider the welfare checklist, as follows:
- The child’s wishes and feelings, taking into account their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of changes in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background, and any other relevant characteristics
- Any risk of harm, or harm that the child is at risk of suffering
- The parents’ abilities to meet the child’s needs
- Any other relevant issues