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Child Arrangement Orders

(Child arrangements also known as child residence, child living arrangements, child contact and child custody)

The needs of children are always of the utmost importance following a family breakdown. When it comes to the law regarding children, it is based on what is in the children’s best interests as opposed to the interests of the parents.

Our family law solicitors are specialists in dealing with divorce or separation matters involving children. We can help you to determine what time the child will spend with the non-residential parent, who the child will live with and many other issues relating to children.

In England and Wales the legal system favours and encourages voluntary agreements between parents rather than court imposed orders. It is widely recognised that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long term. Usually, the courts will only be involved if both parents are unable to reach an appropriate arrangement.

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Who should our child will live with?

Determining who a child should live with is sometimes known as ‘child custody’ or ‘child residence’. It is key and should always be a top priority for any child involved to have a stable and safe place to live.

In many situations a child will live primarily with one parent and the other will have ‘contact’ at pre-arranged and regular intervals. E.g. at weekends. Our experienced family solicitors can help you to negotiate an arrangement which is most suitable for your family and your child.

Many different factors will be taken into account when creating the arrangements. This includes:

In some cases it is possible for parents to have shared care of the children. For this arrangement to succeed it has to be practical for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive and unsettling for them.

Unfortunately, disputes between parents about the arrangements for the children are common. Each parent will be encouraged to try and reach a compromise on the issues in dispute. It is often possible to seek the assistance of a trained Family Mediator who can help the parents discuss their views openly and try to reach an agreement between themselves.

We will advise you as to whether Family Mediation is a suitable option for you and we can help arrange Mediation for you if required.

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Defining child contact with the non-resident parent

In England and Wales the law commonly accepts that it is in the interests of the child to have frequent contact with both parents, unless special circumstances apply.

Contact with your child can be in different forms, such as evenings during the week or days at the weekend spent with the non-resident parent. Children should also be encouraged to spend long periods with the non-resident parent such as longer stays during school holidays or overnight stays.

It is beneficial to work out a routine for contact with your children which is regular and which suits the needs of both the parents and the children

It is up to the parents to agree a routine that suits everyone involved. In our experience, agreements reached between the parents succeed better than those imposed by the court. There are no specific rules laid down in law as to how much contact is allowed by each parent.

Usually, child contact arrangements can be worked out by a process of negotiation between the parents, with the help of their solicitors where required. If you are not able to reach a compromise between yourselves, then the courts can impose a Child Arrangements Order that specifies exactly what time the children will spend with each parent.

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What to do if an agreement cannot be reached by negotiation?

If negotiations between the parents are not effective or possible the next option is Family Mediation. If Mediation fails then it may be necessary to go to court resolve any issues relating the children.

In court, a family judge can make a number of ‘Orders’, which are commands that must be followed. This orders state what the arrangements for the children will be.

Common court orders which can be made are:

Child Arrangements Order (Replaces the previous Child Residence Order and Child Contact Order)

A Child Arrangements Order outlines who the children will live with once the separation is made permanent. It is possible to have a shared Child Arrangements Order which will specify the periods that the children spend with each parent. A Child Arrangements Order also specifies how often the non-resident parent will see the children. It will clearly outline when and for how long contact will take place. It is the duty of the resident parent to promote contact with the other parent and to encourage the children to attend.

Prohibited Steps Order

A Prohibited Steps Order can be granted to prevent a parent from taking a particular step in relation to the children, for example taking the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent or the court.

Specific Issue Order

A Specific Issue Order is where you need the court’s assistance in making a key decisions about your child’s life. This can include things such as which school your children will attend, what religion they will be brought up in or which surname they will be known by.

Parental Responsibility Orders

Parental responsibility is a legal phrase used to define who has the rights and obligations to make decisions that affect a child’s life. A court will generally grant a Parental Responsibility Order to a parent unless there is sufficient reason not to.

Please see our separate section on parental responsibility for more information.

If you would like to discuss an issue with one of our family law solicitors, please contact us and one of our specialist team will be happy to advise you.

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