Child Arrangement 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 Arrangement Order to find a way forwards.
At IBB Solicitors, 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.
Vicky Preece and Celia Whittuck have both worked extensively in the representation of children in public law matters, so have exceptional insight into how the wishes and feelings of children play into family disputes.
Wherever possible, we aim to represent clients at court ourselves rather than instructing a barrister as this gives you consistency of representation throughout your case. However, 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.
Why IBB Solicitors are the right choice for you and your children
We are a leading South East Family Law team, being ranked Tier 1 by the Legal 500 for Family Law in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, and Band 2 ranked by Chambers & Partners for Watford, Uxbridge and the surrounding area.
The team is headed by Amanda Melton, 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, as this is key to getting you the right outcome for you and your children while making what can be a difficult time as easy as possible on your family.
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 law 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.
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.
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.