What is a Child Arrangement Order?
In an ideal world, child arrangements (know historically as child custody) will be decided amicably among all involved parties. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible and if this is the case then the court will need to get involved.
In the UK, a Child Arrangement Order is an agreement detailing where a child will live, who they will spend time with and who they can have contact with. They are typically sought following the breakdown of a relationship and they take into account individual circumstances and what’s in the best interests of the child.
How do I apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
If you cannot agree on who should take care of your child/ren, you will need to apply for a court order. Please note that aside from certain situations such as domestic abuse for example, you must show that you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first.
If you apply directly to the court, they will more than likely appoint the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). This organisation represents children in family court cases in England and depending on the situation and ages of those involved, a CAFCASS office may speak directly to your child/ren to get their views and input.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
In the majority of cases, it is the responsibility of you as a parent, guardian or step parent to make an application.
A person can also apply for a Child Arrangement Order if:
- They’ve lived with the child for at least three years within the last five years, and their application to the court is made within three months of the child no longer living with them
- A Child Arrangement Order is in force, and the person wishing to make the application has the consent of the person the child is legally living with at the moment
- The child is in Local Authority care and the person has the consent of the Local Authority to make an application
- They have the consent of each person who holds Parental Responsibility
If a person doesn’t meet any of these criteria, the court will need to grant permission for the application to be considered.
How long does it take to apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
Every situation is different and how long resolution takes place will depend on whether or not you can come to an agreement with the help of the court or CAFCASS.
How long does a Child Arrangement Order stay in force for?
The contact arrangements set out remain legally binding until your child/ren reaches the age of 16 (unless the order specifically states otherwise). After this, it’s up to your child/ren to decide how much contact they want to have with the parent they don’t live with.
What happens if a Child Arrangement Order is broken?
The Court does not monitor Child Arrangement Orders so if one has been broken, they need to be notified of the breach. A formal application for enforcement will need to be made and if the court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a breach has occurred, they will make an Enforcement Order. This can result in a warning, fine, community service or in serious cases, a prison sentence.
For more information about Child Arrangement Orders or if you would like help making an application, please get in touch with our family team. At Kidd Rapinet, we understand that cases involving children are very sensitive which is why we offer a no-obligation consultation. This will give you an insight into where you stand legally and also ensure that you’re 100% confident we’re the right firm for you before committing to anything.