Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements

Blanchards Law is a niche family law practice with children’s law specialists at varying levels of expertise.  We cover all areas of children law, whether you need advice on child abduction, paternity rights, Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements, financial orders for children. Whether you are married or unmarried couples the law surrounding children does not differentiate.

Can we help you? Please call us on 0333 344 6302 or email us at info@blanchardslaw.co.uk

We know the welfare of your children is your primary concern. The specialist team at Blanchards Law are parents ourselves, so we know how to support and guide our clients through the challenges of children disputes. Whether you are a married or an unmarried couple, you are first and foremost parents. Our experienced solicitors are best placed to advise parents and grandparents of their rights when it comes to the wellbeing of children.

You will have many questions. We can provide expert advice to support and assist you on all the issues.

When a couple separates, there can sometimes be disputes over where the child or children will live. If the parents cannot agree, a Child Arrangement Order may be required from the Court to decide where the child will live and what contact they should have with the other parent. Shared care does not necessarily mean that the time is shared equally between the parents. In more serious cases child abduction can be an issue.

Child Arrangement Orders used to be known as Residence Orders and Contact Orders. A Child Arrangement Order now covers both, and any parents, who have the older Orders need not to re-apply.

Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements

A child arrangement (or child arrangements) order is a binding legal agreement between the court and the parents or guardians of a child, whether a married or unmarried couple. Child arrangements orders are used to ensure that the child’s living provisions are made in their best interests and the welfare of the child or children is paramount in any decisions made.

When a marriage breaks down and there are children involved, the parents are ideally able to agree on where the children will live, and when the absent parent will have contact. Sometimes, however, parents cannot agree on these details.

When parents cannot come to a decision on their own, one or both parents may apply to the court for a child arrangement order. This order can stipulate where and with whom a child lives, when and where they have contact with the absent parent and other matters relating to the child’s welfare. Some things you might want to consider are as follows:

  • Historically, who has been the child’s primary carer?
  • How old is your child, what are their wishes, and what effect will different living arrangements have on them?
  • Where do you live? Will one of you be moving out? If so, to where?
  • Where do you work, and how will your hours affect looking after your child?
  • Are your children at school? What is the location of the school to your home?
  • Can either of you afford to pay maintenance to the other?

Try to agree matters quickly—uncertainty can be very traumatic for children, and often they just want to know where they will live, who they will see, when and for how long.

If you can agree the arrangements amongst yourselves and continue co-parenting despite your relationship breakdown, the next step you might want to take is to draw up a Parenting Plan. This plan will help you agree and uphold all the aspects of your agreement, from contact time to financial support and decisions about education, medical treatment and even introducing new partners.

If you are able to reach an agreement, there’s no need to involve the family court at all in those arrangements and no orders will be made about your child.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

Usually child arrangements orders & agreements are applied for when the parents of a child or children are divorcing or ending a long-term relationship. Whether a married or unmarried couple, the same rules apply, these documents outline the details of your agreement.

One of the parents may not be a biological parent or may be a guardian or other relative. For example, the grandparents or other relatives of a child may apply for a child arrangement order in a situation where for example, one or both of the child’s parents has died or is believed to be an unfit parent.

Anyone who has parental responsibility for the child(ren) can apply, even if they are not a biological parent. Anyone else, who wants to seek a child arrangements order can only do so if they apply to the court for permission first.

The people who can apply for a child arrangements order include:

  • A parent, guardian, or special guardians.
  • Anyone who currently has parental responsibility of the child(ren).
  • A person in a marriage or civil partnership where the child(ren) is a child of the family (even if they are not a biological parent).

What is included will vary dependent on each individual situation. It can include very specific instructions regarding how contact will work or more general arrangements such as:

  • the responsibility to encourage the relationship between the other parent and the child
  • the agreement to not speak badly of each other
  • scheduled telephone or video contact
  • other specific details, such as where handover will take place and who will conduct it

The details will be tailored to your situation and your child’s needs. If there is any risk of child abduction a specific and detailed child arrangements order can give you some protection.

How can Blanchards Law Help with a Child Arrangements Order?

At Blanchards Law we have experienced family law solicitors and paralegals that can provide help for parents who are struggling with disputes involving children, child abduction, paternity rights, Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements, financial orders for children and all areas of law surrounding children matters, whether or not they end up going to court for a child arrangement order. Our solicitors can provide advice and advocacy, help with drafting legal documents and agreements, and other tasks.

Blanchards Law can:

  • Provide legal advice for a parent who is trying to reach a contact agreement with an ex-spouse or partner.
  • Provide legal advice for a grandparent or other relative who needs to seek the court’s permission to apply for an arrangement order.
  • Provide legal advice during the mediation process.
  • Help fill in forms and prepare legal documents required during the process of applying for and obtaining the order and file the appropriate documents with the court.
  • Prepare and send to the court the application for a child arrangement order and arrange for the order to be served on the other parent or guardian.
  • Prepare evidence and supplemental information for subsequent hearings, to ensure the courts have all the information they need to make a decision.
  • Draw up Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements

Mediation

If parents are unable to agree they enter into a process called mediation. This starts with a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting, which is compulsory for both parents to attend if they want to make an application to Court, save for in certain circumstances. Mediation is available to parents whether a married or unmarried couple.

At this meeting the parents talk with a trained mediator, to see if their child arrangement dispute is one that can be solved via mediation. If the mediator believes that mediation will be successful, they will recommend that the parents attend one or more sessions with a trained mediator. The mediator is there to help the parents reach an agreement about issues relating to the child (ren).

Mediation will only work if both parties agree to it otherwise it can be seen as a pointless exercise.

If you are not on amicable terms then you could try and reinstate contact by sending a formal letter to the other parent. Blanchards Law have a team of specialists who can assist you in trying to re-instate any contact which has been prevented.

If the mediator does not think mediation will help the parents resolve their dispute—or if they try mediation and do not reach an agreement—the next step is to apply to the court for a child arrangements order. Except in an emergency or in other limited circumstances, the court will not accept an application for a child arrangements order until you have at least attended a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ (MIAM).

Applying to the Court

Once a parent or guardian applies for a child arrangement order, the court schedules a “directions” hearing. This hearing is mediated by a Judge, and both parents and guardians must attend.  An officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is also present, to assist the court at this hearing.

During this initial hearing, the Judge will encourage the parents to reach an agreement that takes into consideration what is best for the welfare of the child. If this does not happen the Judge will schedule one or more further hearings.

Additional hearings may involve other steps such as filing evidence, making a statement, and calling witnesses or filing witness statements. An officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) may also become further involved, as someone who is appointed to be an independent advisor to the court and relay the child’s (children’s) views, where appropriate, to the court. The CAFCASS representative may make recommendations to the court to help the court make a decision.

At the final hearing, the court reviews all the evidence and statements that have been made and makes a final decision which is put into an order of the court.

What do the Courts Consider when Granting a Child Arrangements Order?

A child arrangement order always considers the child’s best interests over everything else. The entire purpose of the order is to ensure that the child’s welfare is the first and foremost consideration. This is informed by a number of criteria including:

  • the wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considering their age and understanding)
  • physical, emotional and educational needs
  • the effect a change of circumstance may have upon them
  • age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant
  • harm that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • how capable the parents are of meeting the child’s needs

The child arrangements order typically specifies several different conditions about where children live and with whom they have contact.

The Court can make orders as to when and where the child will spend time with the absent parent. Which could be after-school, weekends, or monthly visits. The visits may be specified as taking place at the child’s home or in a public place. It can include the sharing of school holidays and taking the children out of the country for breaks and holidays.

Other kinds of contact the child can have with the absent parent can also be incorporated into a child arrangements order such as phone calls, facetime or video calls, texts, or emails.

Child Arrangement Orders & Agreements can be tailored to your requirements

Specific Issue Order

This type of arrangement is for specific details of a child’s upbringing, for example, where they go to school, and whether or not they have a certain kind of religious education; whether it is in their best interests to change their surname.

Prohibited Steps Order

A Prohibited Steps Order can limit one or both parents from carrying out certain events or trips without the express permission of the other.

A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) is an order granted by the court in family cases which prevents either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. This is more common in cases where there is suspicion that one parent may leave the area with their children.

We have all heard the stories of a parent taking their child for the weekend and not returning them or going abroad with them and it becoming extremely difficult for the other parent to get their child back. Thankfully, this is one of the scenarios that a PSO seeks to prevent.

A PSO applies to any jurisdiction within the UK as specified by the court at the time of issue. For example, if the court finds that there are grounds to suspect the parent in question may take their child out of the area, then they may specify in the order that they do not do so. Failure to comply with this order is a criminal offence and could result in a custodial sentence.

This is useful if you are worried your ex-partner may attempt child abduction, for example, take the child abroad or to another area of the UK without your knowledge.

Can we help you? Please call us on 0333 344 6302 or email us at info@blanchardslaw.co.uk

Stories & case studies to help you

Please read our blogs on our children work and practice. Like you, many client have come to us because the blogs are informative and designed to help you understand what you can do to resolve your situation.

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