Child arrangements orders are made by the court pursuant to section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and are orders that can direct with whom a child is to live with or spend time with. There are also further orders the court can make under section 8 to decide on a specific issue such as schooling or to prevent a parent from doing something with the child e.g. going abroad
Who can apply for a child arrangements order?
The following parties can apply for a child arrangements order without the permission of the court, using a C100 form:
- A parent
- A guardian
- Special guardians
- A person in a marriage or civil partnership and the child is a child of the family
- Anyone who holds parental responsibility for the child
- Anyone who has lived with the child for three years or longer
Anyone else that wishes to apply for a child arrangements order can only do this if they apply to the court for permission first.
How long is a child arrangements order in force?
Pursuant to section 91(10) of the Children Act 1989 a child arrangements order in respect of whom a child is to spend time with will remain in force until the subject child turns 16.
A child arrangements order with respect to whom a child is to live with (previously known as “custody”) remains in force until the subject child turns 18. It is important to note however, that courts are often reluctant to enforce this type of order after the child turns 16.
How do I apply for a child arrangements order?
The very first step, before an application is made to the court, is for the parties to attend a MIAM. This is a mediation meeting at which a mediator meets with the parties to assess whether their dispute can be resolved through mediation. If the mediator believes that the dispute can be resolved through mediation they will arrange a mediation session with the parties. If the mediator does not however believe that the case is suitable for mediation, then they will sign a form confirming this, which would need to be attached to the applying party’s application to the court.
There are exceptions to when mediation is not required such as if either of the parties have been a victim of domestic violence.
The next step is to make an application to the court. This is done on a C100 form.
Once the court office has issued the application, a directions hearing will be listed known as a FHDRA (First hearing Directions Resolution Appointment) The court will try to reach a decision at this hearing, however if the parents cannot agree then the court will list a further hearing and may direct for witness statements and a welfare report from an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). The court will then list the matter for a final hearing where the court will review all of the evidence and make a final decision.