What is a Child Arrangement Order?

11 May 2016

In England and Wales a Child Arrangement Order is a Court Order that sets out details of who is responsible for the care of a child.

This type of Court Order is usually used in cases where the parents cannot agree between them how to split the care of their child/children.

Sometimes in a divorce or separation, it is difficult to be reasonable with your ex. This can result in a standoff about how you will both care for your children. Making child arrangements is not part of a divorce in England or Wales, so it is important to get arrangements for your children finalised.

There are other options other than a Child Arrangement Order and it’s always best to explore all your options before going to Court to settle your children’s care arrangements.

Firstly, you can try to come to an agreement yourselves. Try to consider what’s best for the children and put your feelings of animosity or hurt to one side for now. This can be really difficult to do alone, so you might want to consider Mediation.

Mediation is where you ask for a professional mediator to meet with you and your ex-partner (in separate rooms if required) to help you both come to an agreement without having to go to Court. A professional mediator is impartial and independent and has no stake in your relationship or in the outcome. Their impartiality can help you reach an agreement.

Your last and final option is to go to Court to get a Child Arrangement Order. If you choose this option, you leave it up to a Court to decide who will be the primary carer of your children and the amount of access that is allowed by the secondary carer. You can do this without the help and legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor, but it will be difficult for several reasons.

Not knowing how the Court works, the process, what forms to fill in and how to respond to letters you receive can feel very unsettling, particularly when it’s such an important issue.

Getting legal advice from a specialist Family Law Solicitor will help you to understand what the likely outcome of the Child Arrangement Order will be. A Family Law Solicitor could also help to change and improve the outcome for you. You’ll have someone on your side who knows the law and how the Court works.

A Child Arrangement Order is made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. Only some people can apply for a Child Arrangement Order without the permission of the Court. They are:

  • A parent, guardian or special guardian of the child
  • Someone who has Parental Responsibility
  • Someone who already has a Residence Order for that child
  • Any spouse or civil partner if the child is part of that family
  • Someone who the child has lived with for more than three years

Interestingly, you can see that grandparents do not have a direct right to apply, unless they meet one of the above criteria. Alternatively, they can apply to the Court for permission to obtain a Child Arrangement Order.

Once a Child Arrangement Order is made by the Court, the person or people named in that Order have Parental Responsibility for the child or children until the Order comes to an end. They can also make sure that contact with the child/children is supervised if this is necessary due to family circumstances.

For more information about how a Child Arrangement Order can help you, see our case study. In this case, our client was given permission by the Court to take his two daughters to a family wedding in France, where they could be bridesmaids.

At Co-op Legal Services, our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors know how difficult it is to try to work with your ex to come to an agreement over the children. We can help you to make this process less stressful by giving you clear legal advice on where you stand.

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