Child Arrangements

As parents ourselves, we understand that your children are the most important part of your life and you want to make them your primary focus during any difficult times.

Separation is never going to be easy. However, our Family Law Team here at Pennine Law are committed to treating clients as an individuals and resolving their cases as fairly as possible.

We do our utmost to avoid lengthy court battles and unnecessary heartache for you and your children. If you’re unable to agree or have been the victim of violence, then it may be necessary to make an application to court. Rest assured that we will deal with this as sensitively and efficiently as possible.

Whatever the legal issue involving your children is, talk to us first… make sure both you and your children are looked after.

Child Arrangements

If your relationship with your child’s or children’s other parent ends, you’ll need to agree on where your child/children will continue to live. This can be an informal agreement, but it might be a good idea to write it down.

You will need to consider arrangements such as:

  • Where your children stay and on which days.
  • Will either parent’s house be more convenient for school?
  • Plans for the future, such as when they change or start school.
  • How you or your ex-partner will keep in contact with your children and each other.

If you need help or guidance in setting out child arrangements, our Family Law Team is more than happy to help.

Child Arrangement Orders

Child Arrangements

If your relationship with your child’s or children’s other parent ends, you’ll need to agree on where your child/children will continue to live. This can be an informal agreement, but it might be a good idea to write it down.

You will need to consider arrangements such as:

  • Where your children stay and on which days.
  • Will either parent’s house be more convenient for school?
  • Plans for the future, such as when they change or start school.
  • How you or your ex-partner will keep in contact with your children and each other.

If you need help or guidance in setting out child arrangements, our Family Law Team is more than happy to help.

Child Arrangement Order

Differences of opinion can often be settled through conversation or mediation. However, if you can’t agree with an ex-partner, then you can apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

A Child Arrangement Order is an order from the court, which may either specify where the children will live and/or how often the child will see each parent and whether the parents will share care of the children.

A Child Arrangement Order can specify when your children will have contact with a person other than the people they currently live with. This can include indirect contact such as telephone calls, video calls or cards/letters as well as direct face-to-face contact and whether or not such contact should be supervised.

An order issued by a court is legally binding and you must do what is says. The court has the power to impose such things as fines or even prison sentences if you fail to comply with an order. Once an arrangement has been agreed upon it is incredibly important to stick to it.

Can Child Arrangement Orders be changed?

Yes. You can apply to the court to amend an order. You can also ask the court to enforce an order if it has been breached.

If you want to amend or enforce an order, it will be likely that you will need to attend a court hearing. However, if it is something you can agree on with the other parent, you can make your own amendments.

If you were to make your own amendments to the order, then the court would not be able to enforce these amendments in the future unless you made the changes legally binding. You can make a change legally binding by both you and your ex informing the court formally (by consent agreement) that you agree to change the order.

You should always apply to amend the terms of the order, rather than breaching the order or denying access. Doing so could potentially give the other party grounds to apply for enforcement proceedings. If there are serious concerns about a child’s safety, always seek immediate legal advice and inform the appropriate authorities.

Talk to us first…

Our Family Law Team is here to help advise and guide you through the difficult process of separation. If you want to explore your options with child arrangements, obtaining a Child Arrangement Order, amending, enforcing or ending an order, please contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

If both parents agree on how and where a child will be cared for, is a Child Arrangement Order needed?

No.

Do I need a solicitor to decide who looks after the children after separation?

Not if you can agree this with your ex-partner.  If you can’t agree directly you can try mediation.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangement Order?

Anyone with parental responsibility.  If you don’t have parental responsibility you will need the permission of the court to apply.

How long does it take to obtain a Child Arrangement Order?

It varies but anything between six months to two years.

What steps should parents/guardians take when amending a child arrangement order?

They should try to do this by agreement with the other parent if possible.  If an agreement can be reached, then an order can be amended by agreement (by Consent).  The court fee for amending an order by agreement is much lower than the fee required if an agreement can’t be reached.

Do the parents/guardians need to attend mediation before amending a child arrangement order?

It may be advisable to attend mediation. If this can help you reach an agreement, then you can then amend the order by consent. Victims of domestic abuse are exempt from attending mediation and exemption can also be claimed in an emergency.  Any agreement reached at mediation is not binding.  If you want an amendment to an order to be binding, then an application to the court for a variation to the original order will need to be made.

What are the main things parents/guardians need to consider before making an application to the court to vary a child arrangement order?

How long has the order that you are looking to change been in place? If it has only been in place a few weeks or months, then it is unlikely the court would feel a change is appropriate, unless there have been other significant changes in circumstances.

Is it in the best interests of the child/children for the order to be amended?  Children require stability and the court now generally makes orders designed to last a considerable length of time.

Why are you seeking an amendment?  Is it to prove a point or a genuine need for a change as the current order is no longer fit for purpose?  A solicitor can help you with these considerations and advise on the best way to proceed.

It may not always be necessary to apply to the court to amend an order, particularly where both parents or guardians agree with the changes.

Applications to court can be expensive, both in terms of legal fees and court fees and careful consideration should be given to whether an amended order is really necessary.

What will the court take into consideration when reviewing an application to vary a child arrangement order?

The formal answer is the considerations set out in the welfare checklist in the children act, which are:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding).
  • Physical, emotional and educational needs of the child.
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances.
  • Age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant.
  • Any harm which 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 to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the court under the 1989 Act.

The court will do what it considers is in the best interests of the child.  Orders may need an amendment if:

  • The child wants less/more contact
  • One of the parties to the order can no longer comply with it due to a change of working hours
  • There is some other significant change that needs to be addressed.

If the change is related to the amount of contact and the order has not been in place long, it is unlikely a court will agree to an amendment as the child/children and parents/guardians need time to put the order into practice and settle into a routine.

Why is it important to seek expert advice from a solicitor when amending a child arrangement order?

An application to the court for an amended order may not always be appropriate or likely to be successful.  A sympathetic Solicitor with good knowledge of the practice and procedure the courts adopt can provide expert advice on the likelihood of success, possible costs and what other options may be available to resolve any issues.

Meet the team

Deborah Bates - Family Lawyer - Pennine Law Solicitors - Penistone & Hoyland
Family Lawyer