What is a child arrangement order?

07 April 2021

In England and Wales a child arrangement order is a court order setting out where the child will live, how they will be cared for and how often they will see the other parent.

This type of court order is usually used if parents cannot agree between them how to share the care of their child.

Making child arrangements is not part of the divorce process in England or Wales, so it is important to ensure these arrangements are in place.

Making a child arrangement order is one way to do this, but there are other options available too. It’s always best to explore all your options to settle your children’s care arrangements, before going to court.

Agree childcare arrangements between you

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

Mediation is where a professional mediator meets you and your ex-partner (in separate rooms if needed) to help you reach an agreement without going 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.

How child arrangement orders work

If mediation isn't successful, your final option is to go to court to get a child arrangement order. If you choose this option, the court will decide who is the primary carer of your children and how much access the secondary carer has.

It is possible to make a child arrangement order without legal advice, but it's a good idea to get professional advice from a Family Law Solicitor. They can support you through the process and provide advice and guidance. They will explain how the court works, what to expect during the process, what forms to fill in and how to respond to any correspondence you receive.

A specialist Family Law Solicitor will also 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, because you’ll have someone acting on your behalf 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 over the child
  • Someone who already has a residence order for the 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. They can apply to the court for permission to obtain a child arrangement order though.

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