When parties separate, they need to come to an agreement in respect of the arrangements for the children. Some parties will be able to reach an agreement on their own during separation, whereas others will separate on acrimonious terms and will struggle to reach an agreement or communicate with one another effectively.
On the occasions where parties cannot reach an agreement, the assistance of third parties such as mediators and lawyers can assist the parties in reaching an agreement. Some may even require the assistance of the court.
What is a Child Arrangements Order and who can apply?
A child arrangements order is a court order that sets out the arrangements for a child(ren). Only parties with parental responsibility can apply for a child arrangements order without seeking permission from the court first. The child arrangements order sets out with whom the child(ren) should live, as well as the contact arrangements between the child(ren) and the non-resident parent.
When deciding whether to make an order in respect of a child, the court’s paramount consideration is always the child’s wellbeing. The court will consider whether the order being made is in the child’s best interests, and is more beneficial for the child than no order being made.
The court will also consider a welfare checklist when making an order for a child. The welfare checklist takes account of the following;
- the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
- their physical, emotional and educational needs;
- the likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances;
- their age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant;
- any harm which they have suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs;
- the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangements Order?
It could take several months, or even longer to obtain a child arrangements order. The timing really depends on the availability of the court to hear your matter. Once an application is made to the court, the court should list your matter for first hearing within the first two months, but this is not always possible. At the first hearing you may obtain an interim contact order but not a final order, unless by agreement with the other party.
What happens after a child arrangement order?
The length of which a child arrangement order lasts depends on the individual circumstances. A child arrangements order which states with whom a child should live with will last until the child reaches the age of 18 years, whereas a child arrangements order which defines the time the child should spend with others, will last until the child reaches the age of 16 years.
Child arrangements orders are a legally binding order upon the child(ren)’s parents. If the order is breached, it can be enforced by the court.