When a marriage or partnership comes to an end, there’s a whole host of factors that couples must take into consideration from finances to relocation. However, one of the most difficult factors can be organising child arrangement orders.
Of course, parents always want what’s best for their children, but it’s not always a simple process. Parents may also be unaware of their legal footing or perhaps might be confused by the whole process.
Not to worry, read on and soon you’ll know everything you need to know to navigate child arrangement orders in the most efficient and effective way.
This article will explain:
A child arrangement order is a legal agreement set out by the court which outlines how a divorcing or separating couple will create plans, schedules and commitments for their children.
These kinds of orders are typically utilised when couples are unable to reach an agreement on parenting arrangements. There are also two kinds of child arrangement orders, the first outlines which parent a child will live with and the second outlines who a child will spend time with.
While child arrangements orders are typically used when a married couple are going through a divorce, or when unmarried couples with children separate, that’s not always the case. Child arrangement orders are used in a number of different scenarios, including when a non-biological parent or a guardian seeks custody.
That being said, only some individuals can apply for a child arrangement order. This includes:
A child arrangements order will typically last until a child reaches the age of 16. However, a child arrangement order specifically relating to where a child will take residence, otherwise known as a “Live with Order”, can go on for another two years, until the child reaches the age of 18.
A number of different conditions are outlined in a child arrangement order relating to where a child will take residence, and who they will spend their time with. This includes the following:
When it comes to child arrangement orders, all decisions must be made with the child or children’s best interests in mind. Of course, this means that a lot of factors will be taken into consideration. Primarily, as outlined in the checklist set out in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, the courts will consider:
There are a number of steps involved in arranging the orders, and some of these steps may vary depending on the particular case. However, before anything else occurs, a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) must take place, and must be attended by both parents.
Once a MIAM form is obtained, and a meeting is arranged, a trained independent mediator will assess the situation, and decide whether or not mediation will be effective. If mediation takes place and parents are unable to reach an agreement, they will be instructed to to apply to the court. This is done through filing a C100 form. In cases where there are alleged instances of harm or domestic violence, a C1A form must be filed.
Once the court receives the form/s, a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) date will be arranged. At this appointment, the court will assess what each parent or guardian seeks to achieve, assess the situation, and decide on how to proceed. An officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) , may also attend to mediate the situation. If both parents/guardians agree at this stage, then this will be recorded in a binding order. In situations where both parties are unable to agree, another hearing will be scheduled.
During the additional hearings, parties will be required to provide more evidence, and potentially witnesses. An officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is also likely to become more involved in later stages.
If all other hearings have been unsuccessful in helping both parties come to an agreement, then at the final hearing, after reviewing all of the evidence, the court will make a final decision. This finalised decision will take the form of a court order.
Unfortunately, child arrangement orders are not always complied with, and breaches do have consequences.
If it is found that a parent/guardian has failed to comply with the child arrangement order, an enforcement order can be applied for through a Form C79.
The enforcement of child arrangement orders is dealt with in Section 11J of the Children Act 1989 and the court will consider a number of factors. This includes:
If the court decides to proceed with the enforcement order, there are a number of different options that may be chosen. This includes:
It’s never easy when a family breaks up, and children are separated from their parents. On top of this, familiarising yourself with the processes involved in a child arrangement order can be confusing, and stressful. However, now you have all the information you need to take your next step confidently.
And remember, a child’s safety, welfare and happiness are always the most important factors when pursuing a child arrangement order, so make sure this is the top priority.
If your law firm is based in the UK and you specialise in family law, then a listing on FamilyMatters.co.uk could really help your firm to reach people searching for these services.Add Your Law Firm