Child Arrangements Orders
When two parents separate, it is not always possible to agree on where your children should live, what contact each parent should have with them and other issues about their upbringing.
While mediation and other non-confrontational options can sometimes help, it may sometimes be necessary to apply to a court for a Child Arrangements Order to find a way forwards for divorce and child arrangements.
At IBB Law, we have very strong experience in Child Arrangements Order applications and enforcement, so can offer the clear, practical advice and robust representation you need for every stage of proceedings. We can also provide empathetic personal support through what is likely to be an emotionally challenging time for you and your children.
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Complete legal support for Child Arrangements Orders
Our team can advise on all areas of divorce and child arrangements, including:
- Child Arrangements Order applications
- Understanding how family courts deal with Child Arrangements Orders
- Emergency Child Arrangements Orders
- Enforcing Child Arrangements Orders
Why choose IBB Law for help with a Child Arrangements Order?
Benefits of working with the Child Law team at IBB Law include:
- Our expertise is independently accredited with Tier 1 ranking from the Legal 500 for Family Law and Band 2 ranking by Chambers & Partners
- The team is headed by Jolene Hutchison, a highly experienced family lawyer recognised in the Legal 500 for “exceptional professional knowledge with strong interpersonal skills” and her “straight-talking approach and honesty about the potential pitfalls of a case”
- Clients value our combination of hard-headed legal representation and a sympathetic, client-focused approach
- Senior Associate Reena Vadera has worked extensively in the representation of children in public law matters, so has exceptional insight into how the wishes and feelings of children play into family disputes
- We aim to represent clients at court ourselves rather than instructing a barrister where possible, giving consistency of representation throughout your case
- In very complex cases, we may consider it is in your best interests to instruct a barrister, in which case, we will work closely with them to make sure your case is handled effectively and that you feel fully supported at all times
Call today to discuss your case with our Child Arrangements Order solicitors
Our child arrangements solicitors are available in Uxbridge, Beaconsfield, Reading and Ascot. You can call one of our legal offices directly or fill in the enquiry form on our contact page, and one of our legal team will call you.
How we can help you with a Child Arrangement Order
Making a Child Arrangements Order application
If you are a child’s mother, father or anyone else with parental responsibility, you can apply to a court for a Child Arrangements Order where necessary. There are circumstances where other relatives or people concerned with the child can apply to the court but will usually need the court’s permission to do so.
You will usually need to show that you have considered mediation first before being allowed to apply to a court to make child arrangements, except in limited circumstances, such as where there has been a history of domestic abuse.
You will need to fill out a form (C100) and submit this, along with three copies and an application fee to your nearest court that deals with cases involving children. If there are allegations relating to child abuse or domestic violence, additional documentation will be required.
Our team can talk you through the application process and assist you with completing the forms, making sure there are no errors, missing information or other issues that could potentially hold up your application.
How family courts deal with Child Arrangements Order applications
Following the making of a Children Act application, the Court will list a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. At this hearing the Court will encourage the parties to discuss their differences and try to reach an agreement. Where this is not possible, the Court will provide directions to a further hearing. Sometimes there will be mediators at the Court to assist.
The number of hearings required will vary in each individual case and, sadly, hotly disputed cases often return to court on a regular basis throughout the child’s infancy.
CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will carry out their safety checks in advance of the first hearing and, if necessary, the Court can order further reports on the child’s welfare and best interests to be prepared. Parents may also wish to consider obtaining independent evidence where appropriate.
In considering any application before it, the Court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare and the legislation directs the Court to consider the following:
- The wishes and feelings of the child concerned (as much as these can be ascertained and considered in light of the child’s age and understanding)
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the Court considers relevant
- Any harm that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- How capable each of the child’s parents (and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question relevant) is of meeting the child’s needs
- The range of powers available to the Court (encouraging the Court to consider all of the options, including the making of no order)
Our Child Arrangements Order solicitors can advise and represent you during every stage of court proceedings. We will ensure your wishes and your children’s wishes are made clear and that all relevant evidence to support your case is effectively presented, giving you the best chance of securing the outcome you need.
Emergency Child Arrangements Orders
Where there are concerns about a child’s welfare, it may be possible to secure an emergency Child Arrangements Order. This is most usually used where one parent has failed to return the child to the other parent as specified in an agreement between the two parents.
In such a case, a family court may be willing to issue an interim Child Arrangements Order, requiring the child to be returned to the other parent. A full court hearing would then need to take place to secure a permanent Child Arrangements Order.
If you are concerned about your child’s welfare, please speak to a member of our team. We can advise on whether applying for an interim order may be appropriate and support you through the process.
Enforcing a Child Arrangements Order
If you have had to go through court proceedings to obtain an order to see your child, you are somewhat reliant on the other party complying with the order.
If they don’t, without reasonable excuse, an application can be made to the court for enforcement.
The court has a wide range of powers to deal with breach of a Child Arrangements Order, ranging from referral of the parents to a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) to an order requiring the resident parent to do unpaid work, pay compensation to the other person, pay a fine or, as a last resort, be sent to prison.
The court can also make activity directions and conditions such as requiring a party to attend programmes, classes or counselling to assist a person to establish and maintain involvement in the child’s life or, for example, attending mediation.
Ultimately, this is all aimed at trying to encourage agreement and cooperation between the parents based on the presumption that, unless there is evidence to the contrary, a child’s welfare will be furthered by having the involvement of both parents in their life.
We can advise you on the full range of enforcement actions available and support you in applying to the court, making sure the terms of your Child Arrangements Order are met.
Common questions about Child Arrangements Orders
Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
Anyone with parental responsibility for a child is entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. A birth mother will always automatically have parental responsibility – who else has it will depend on the situation, so it is important to get expert advice on this.
People without parental responsibility, such as grandparents, may also be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, but they will need to seek the permission of the court to apply first.
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangements Order?
There is no set time frame as it will depend on various factors, including how quickly any court hearings are scheduled. 6-12 months is a fairly typical timeframe, but it can take longer.
How do I get a Child Arrangements Order changed?
You have two main options for changing a Child Arrangements Order:
- Agree any changes with the child’s other parent (or anyone else named in the order) – If you can agree the changes amicably, this will normally be much faster, less costly and less disruptive for everyone, especially the child or children involved.
- Apply to a family court to change the order – This will usually take longer and cost more, but if an agreement cannot be made or is not a viable approach, the court route may be necessary.
Whatever the circumstances, it is always sensible to seek expert legal advice before trying to change the terms of a Child Arrangements Order. This can help to give you clarity over whether the changes are likely to be approved by a court if necessary and any unintended implications of the changes you wish to make.
What happens if a Child Arrangements Order is breached?
A Child Arrangements Order is a legally binding court order, so its terms must be stuck to. If another party to the order is not abiding by its terms, then you can apply to a court to enforce the order. This is covered above in the section on ‘Enforcing a Child Arrangements Order’.
Do I need a solicitor for a Child Arrangements Order?
Theoretically, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order yourself without legal support, but we would not advise doing so. The process is complicated, and it is easy to get overwhelmed or make mistakes. It is also important to be really clear about your rights, the rights of your children and what is in their best interests.
Working with an experienced child law expert helps to ensure you follow the process correctly, giving you the best chance of the outcome you and your children need. Having the right support can help you get a Child Arrangements Order in place faster and with less stress, as well as giving you confidence that you are making all the right moves.
Our child law advice fees
We aim for complete transparency with our fees, so will always provide clear cost estimates at the outset, with a number of different fee structures available.
Initial fixed fee consultation
We offer a fixed cost consultation at a reduced fee so you can explain your situation and we can outline your legal options to you. This consultation will be held in complete confidence and there is no obligation to continue with our services afterwards.
Fixed fee child law services
Some of our services for dealing with child arrangements, such as submitting an application for a Child Arrangements Order, can be offered on a fixed fee basis. This gives you certainty over the exact costs involved in handling a specific matter.
Individual charge-out rates for our child law solicitors
For more complex matters, such as representing you in court, we will usually work to a pre-agreed hourly rate. This means we can give you exactly as much support as you need for every stage of proceedings.
To find out more about our fees, please take a look at our pricing policy.
Speak to our expert Child Arrangements Order solicitors in West London, Buckinghamshire and the Thames Valley
Our child arrangements solicitors are available in Uxbridge, Beaconsfield, Reading and Ascot. You can call one of our legal offices directly or fill in the enquiry form on our contact page and one of our legal team will call you.