Confidential child arrangements order advice from experienced UK child law solicitors
A child arrangements order is an order from the court setting out arrangements for your child to live and spend time with both parents. Child arrangements orders replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
It is not compulsory to have a child arrangements order to see your child. Living arrangements and contact can normally be agreed between the parents without the need for a court order.
However, you will need to make a child arrangements order application if you cannot agree as parents, or if you feel a child or grandchild is being denied a relationship with you.
As specialist child law solicitors, our aim is to make the process of applying for a child arrangements order as straightforward and stress-free as possible. We will provide carefully tailored advice and explain the steps you need to take to apply to the court (including applying for an interim child arrangements order if necessary).
With substantial expertise and experience in supporting parents to make child arrangements order applications, we understand that every situation is unique and that matters need to be dealt with on an individual basis.
Our clients come from across the country. Our child arrangements order solicitors in the UK offer both a depth and breadth of knowledge with all types of associated issues, meaning we are perfectly positioned to support people in all situations.
Take a look at our team to find a child arrangements orders solicitor near you.
Speak to an experienced child arrangements solicitor today
Take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to talk through your situation. We will explain your options and the steps you need to make a child arrangements order application in the UK.
We offer a detailed case assessment for £500+VAT, including the time to discuss your case with an experienced child arrangements order solicitor and receive advice on your available options. You can find out more about this here.
How to get a child arrangements order
What is the process of getting a child arrangements order?
The child arrangements order process involves a number of stages. It is important to get specialist advice from the outset to ensure you navigate the process successfully and get the best possible child arrangements in place.
An application needs to be made to the court for a child arrangements order. However, before an application is made both parties are required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is designed to establish whether the parties might be able to reach an agreement through a process of mediation, rather than going to court.
If an agreement cannot be reached, a court form must be completed and submitted to the court with all relevant details. If you choose to appoint Woolley & Co, your lawyer will prepare the application on your behalf and arrange for this to be issued and served upon the other party before arranging representation for the first court hearing. This is what we call stage one.
The application can be quite involved and in stage one will include the following;
- preparation of the application to include a short statement relating to the issues in dispute;
- preparing a supplementary application if there is any alleged risk of harm to the child where they are currently living;
- drafting all the paperwork for your approval and then lodging them with the court for issue. It is usual for the application to be lodged in the court that is nearest to where the child is living;
- arranging for service of the papers on all relevant parties;
- filing the certificate of service with the court;
- advising of the date for the court hearing and arranging legal representation for you.
Often matters will be agreed and concluded at the first hearing.
If not, there will be further stages to be followed which can include filing of evidence in the form of statements and/or the preparation of a report by an officer of CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) who will make recommendations to the court to assist the court in making a decision. This is called stage two and would include at least one further court hearing.
The third and final stage would be the final hearing at which time the court will consider all evidence before making a final decision.
How long it takes to get a child arrangements order will depend on several factors, for example how willing both parties are to reach an agreement, the proposals being made and the evidence needed as well as court diaries and availability.
Sometimes a court will make an interim child arrangements order. This is a temporary order, put in place for example to return the child to the care of one parent or to make sure some contact is taking place, while further court hearings take place.
Common questions about child arrangements orders
What happens at a child arrangements order hearing?
Each child arrangements order hearing is slightly different. At the first hearing, the court will be focused on understanding what issues are in dispute and working out the next steps to take before a decision is taken. The court will try to encourage the parties to resolve the matter by agreement. If this is the case the court will convert the agreement into a final order and this will end the case.
If agreement cannot be reached and the case progresses, further interim court hearings may be required at which the court may consider evidence from CAFCASS and the more detailed facts of the case. This could include a Fact Finding Hearing or a Dispute Resolution or Review Hearing. It is usual for both parents to give evidence if the case proceeds to a Fact Finding Hearing.
A significant amount of information will be gathered for a final hearing and both parents will usually give evidence at that hearing along with CAFCASS or other experts if involved.
If you appoint Woolley & Co your lawyer will guide and support you through each stage.
Can a child arrangements order be changed?
You can apply to the court to vary a child arrangements order, again if this is something you are unable to agree with the other parent. You should apply to vary the terms of the order, rather than stopping contact or breaching the order and potentially requiring the other party to apply for enforcement proceedings.
How long does a child arrangements order last?
A child arrangements order to spend time with a parent usually lapses when the child reaches the age of 16. A child arrangements order which only says where the child will live (traditionally called residence) will continue until the child is 18, unless specifically stated otherwise in the order, or the court decides it should come to an end sooner.
Of course, if the parents are in agreement they can change the arrangements for the care of their child, without the need for an order, at any time.
How long does it take to get a child arrangements order?
As can be expected, the time it takes to get a child arrangements order in the UK will depend on several factors. These will include the relative complexity of the case, the relationship between the parents and whether there are any safeguarding concerns to keep in mind.
If a child arrangements order can be agreed following a MIAM, this will speed the process up significantly, as court proceedings will not be required.
If a case does progress to the court it will typically take around three to six months from when forms are submitted to when the first hearing takes place. You can expect there to be similar intervals between any further hearings that need to take place, but this can vary very considerably from court to court so some cases can take much longer
At what age does a child arrangements order expire in the UK?
A child arrangements order will usually last until a child is 16, or 18 in some exceptional circumstances. It is also important to note that, if separated parents move back into the same household, the order expires after six months of cohabitation.
How much does a child arrangements order cost?
This will largely depend on how much help you have from a lawyer. There is a court fee of £232 to apply for the court order. The costs of legal advice and support will depend on the complexity of your case and whether agreement can be reached at stage one, or the case goes all the way through to a final hearing. If the case does progress to a final hearing you should realistically expect the costs to be anything from £6,000 upwards.
Woolley & Co. Solicitors can often offer a fixed price for different stages depending on individual circumstances. Your lawyer will discuss likely costs in a free 30-minute telephone consultation. Request a call using our online form or call 0800 321 3832 to speak to a family solicitor today.
Can I get legal aid for a child arrangements order in the UK?
Since the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force public funding for children applications (essentially getting financial help when applying to a court to get a child arrangements order) has been withdrawn. There are now very limited circumstances in which legal aid is available and you are advised to check the Government website here.
What is an interim child arrangements order?
An interim child arrangements order, previously known as an interim contact order, is a temporary order a court can make which can be put in place while additional court hearings are taking place.
Interim child arrangements orders in the UK may be put in place to return a child to the care of one parent or to make sure that some form of contact is taking place.
What rights do I have with a child arrangements order?
It is important to consider that a child arrangements order is legally binding. This means that, if either party fails to meet the terms of the order, the other will be able to ask the courts to enforce the order.
The court may make an Enforcement Order for example for the parent in breach of the order to do unpaid work or require that parent to pay financial compensation, or they may decide to reconsider the terms of the order and make a new order with variations.
Who has parental responsibility in a child arrangements order?
Parental responsibility refers to all of the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities a parent has in relation to their child. Both parents will usually have parental responsibility and can meet it individually on a day-to-day basis provided they do so within the terms of the order.
There are some decisions that must be made jointly by parents and, if they cannot agree, an application can be made for a prohibited steps or specific issue order application.
Where a child arrangements order specifies that a child will live with a parent, they will have parental responsibility for that child until the order expires (if they do not have it already)
Do I have to agree to a child arrangements order?
If you already have parental responsibility, you will automatically receive a copy of an application for a child arrangements order and will be invited to attend any court hearings. You are allowed legal representation and can raise any objections you may have to the proposed terms of the court order.
The court will ultimately decide whether or not it is in the child’s best interests to make the child arrangements order and what this will entail.
Can a grandparent apply for a child arrangements order?
It is not uncommon for grandparents to apply for a child arrangements order in order to see their grandchildren following the divorce or separation of their parents. Grandparents however need to go through an additional stage before they apply for an order:they need permission from the court to make the application, but this is usually not a complicated additional step.
There are some options a grandparent can try before making an application to the courts. Attempting to reach an agreement with the parent(s) should be the starting point. If the relationship has broken down to the point that sitting down and talking things through is not possible, put it in writing or ask the parent(s) to consider meeting with a mediator to help discussions
If that fails or the parent(s) will not agree to mediation, a Woolley & Co family lawyer can guide you through the process of making an application for a child arrangements order to the court, call 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
Our child arrangements solicitors in the UK are here for you
Our team understands how challenging making an application for a child arrangements order can be. We are here to guide you through this process, keeping things as straightforward and stress-free as possible.