Child Arrangement Order Solicitors

Our child law solicitors can help couples come to an agreement regarding childcare, child custody and contact.

More about Child Arrangement Orders

At Forbes Solicitors, our child arrangement solicitors provide compassionate and knowledgeable advice to assist with child arrangement order applications. Making arrangements for your child after a separation or divorce can be a difficult and emotional process. We work closely with our clients to ensure that the best interests of the child are considered, and we strive to achieve a solution that meets the unique needs of each family.

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

A child arrangement order is a court order that sets out the arrangements for where a child should live and with whom they should spend time. This type of order is used in cases where parents are unable to reach agreement on these issues, and a judge will make a decision based on what is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

When a relationship or marriage breaks down, it's important to ensure that any parental responsibilities are being fulfilled and that the children do not suffer unnecessarily. Part of this is deciding where children should live with a Child Arrangement Order, so that your child's living arrangements are fixed in a way that will cause minimal disruption to them physically or emotionally.

The terms 'child custody', 'access', 'residence' and 'contact' were replaced by Child Arrangements to mark a change in the focus of the law, which now looks at what is best for the child in question, rather than the wishes of the parents. The older terminology has stuck and is still often used by our clients; however, a Child Arrangement Order simply means determining where a child lives and the time they spend with a parent or other family members.

There are several ways that Child Arrangement Orders can be decided upon and at Forbes Solicitors, we will assist you and your former spouse or partner to decide on the most suitable arrangement for your child or children, through mediation and legal advice. As the emphasis is on what is best for the child, it is generally accepted that the child's parents know what is best for them. Therefore, the Courts only become involved if the parents cannot agree on arrangements and apply to the Court for help or if there are child welfare concerns.

If you need legal advice regarding Child Arrangement Orders, contact our Child Arrangement Order Solicitors today on 0800 689 1058 or enquire online.

Child Arrangement Orders

Child Arrangement Orders

A Child Arrangement Order is a Court ruling on where a child will live and which family members they will spend time with. An order can be granted to more than one person and can be made jointly to an unmarried couple. It lasts until the child is 16, unless the circumstances of the case are exceptional, and the Court has ordered that it should continue for longer.

A Child Arrangement Order (determining where a child lives) also prevents anyone changing a child's surname without the agreement of everyone with parental responsibility or an order of the Court, except in Scotland, where a Child Arrangements Order does not prevent a change in surname. It also places certain restrictions on taking children out of the UK.

Child Arrangements Orders are popular applications and the terms of the order can be varied to individual circumstances. They provide for definition of different options. One example is providing for a child to live with both parents and simply puts in place how that time will be divided - whether equally or unequally. As the Order requires the child to live with both parents at different times, it reinforces the idea that both parents will continue to have a significant role in their child's life. Also, because it's an agreement that both parents come to themselves with the help of a mediator, it gives them a sense of ownership over the plans, rather than simply being dictated to.

An alternative is a more 'traditional' arrangement whereby the child stays with the parent they do not usually live with on alternate weekends and for half of the school holidays. However, the exact pattern of arrangements i.e. how long they spend with the non-resident parent, can also be dictated by geography and other issues. At Forbes Solicitors, our team of Child Arrangement Order Solicitors can assist you with a referral to mediation, which is a mandatory requirement before any proceedings can be issued before the Court and we can also assist with any arrangements or agreements that may be reached.

Some situations, however, can make negotiations difficult or impossible - for instance, should one parent want to relocate to a different part of the UK or even abroad. If mediation does not work, we can also represent you in Court, giving you expert, sensitive legal advice to get the best outcome for your family.

Our Child Arrangements Solicitors are recommended in the Legal 500 and are members of the Children's Panel. We have a wide range of experience with dealing with complex Child Arrangement Orders and can represent you at all levels of Court.

Additional Information

When should I consider using the courts?

The decision to go to court to resolve differences with your ex partner should not be taken lightly. Many parents report negative experiences of the processes due to the adversarial atmosphere. All this can make co-operation with your ex partner a lot harder in the long term.

But using the courts has to be a consideration if you and your ex partner are unable to reach agreement over important issues such as parental responsibility and child arrangements.

What issues can the family courts decide?

When parents are separating, divorcing or applying for civil partnership dissolution and can't agree on arrangements for their children, they can turn to the courts for help - in England and Wales, there are specialist family courts. In Scotland, the civil courts handle family matters. The family courts can issue a Child Arrangement order that will determine where the child will live and the time spent with the other parent.

The child's welfare is the court's paramount consideration when looking at questions of child arrangement. The court has a duty to consider certain welfare issues such as:

  • the wishes and feelings of the child concerned

  • their physical, emotional and educational needs

  • the likely effect of any change in the child's circumstances

  • the child's age, sex, background and characteristics

  • any harm or risk of harm

  • the capability of both parents to meet the child's needs.

Child contact rights

Research suggests that the children who adjust best to family separation are those that are able to maintain a relationship with both parents.

There is actually no parental right of contact with children. Contact is the right of a child, not the parent. If parents are unable to agree arrangements, the family courts can determine. All decisions are based on the welfare of the child. There is a presumption in law that a child will have a relationship with both parents.

What are the contact options?

Depending on the parents' relationship contact options can be relaxed and agreed through ongoing discussion. Others will be far more formal and specific in terms of times and dates. Children, especially younger ones, often respond to routine. Try to get a balance between being inflexible and being unpredictable.

What types of arrangements are there?

You may agree that your child lives mostly with you.

There could be a shared arrangement where a child lives with both parents. Arrangements around time spent with each parent and patterns of contact vary greatly.

An arrangement could be where a child lives mostly with one parent but sometimes stays with the other may work. This could be one night a week, one weekend in two or simply a few days in every school holiday.

If one parent does not have suitable accommodation or there is some other reason why an overnight stay may not be practical a visit offers an alternative.

Supervised time may be decided by a court where there are particular problems, for example, when there are high levels of conflict. This usually takes place at a supervised contact centre.

Where no direct contact is permitted it is important to use other methods of keeping in touch with your children. This might be through letters, postcards, gifts, telephone calls or emails.

Child Arrangement Orders are orders of the court and failure to comply with them can be a contempt of court. This can lead to serious consequences.

Often disputes arise within families regarding where children should live, for example upon parents separating, or whether the children should have contact with the parent that they don't live with.

Often cases can be resolved without the need for Court Proceedings and at Forbes Solicitors we will make every effort to do so. We are always mindful of the fact that cases involving children are particularly sensitive.

At Forbes Solicitors we can help any family member whether you are a parent, grandparent or other family member or friend. Our Family, Divorce and Children Law Solicitors are here to help you in any way that we can. Whether you simply require some straightforward legal advice, a letter sending or, if necessary, Court Proceedings can be issued.

We offer our private paying clients the option of our tailored service or for more straightforward cases a fixed fee service. We also offer advice on some areas for those who qualify for Legal Aid.

Child Arrangement Order FAQs

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

A Child Arrangement Order is a legal order handed down by the Court on where a child should live and spend time with. Those named in a Child Arrangement Order shares parental responsibility for the child, along with the parents, and can make important decisions on behalf of the child. Child Arrangement Orders do not only set out how often a parent will see their child, it can also include arrangements with their grandparents or other family members. When the Court is making its decisions, the welfare of the child will be paramount and they will need to follow a 'welfare checklist' which can include the wishes of the child, if they are old enough to express them.

How are the child arrangements reached?

Child arrangements are reached through negotiation, mediation, or court proceedings. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration in any decision made. The court will consider the child's best interests, including their physical, emotional, and educational needs, as well as their age, gender, and background. The court may also take into account the wishes and feelings of the child, as well as the parents' ability to meet the child's needs. Ultimately, the court will make an order that is in the best interests of the child.

There is no one option that can be described as being the best and each situation will be different, depending on the individuals involved. What's important is that the arrangements you agree to are in the child's best interests, rather than the parents'. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that you are making plans for your child's future if you are in a state of emotional turmoil.

Child Arrangements Orders can either be direct arrangements:

  • Visits

  • Night stays

  • Face-to-face meetings.

or indirect, for example:

  • By letter

  • By telephone

  • By email.

Our expert team of Child Arrangement Order Solicitors have the legal experience needed to guide you through such a difficult time and ensure that the best interests of your child are always at the heart of proceedings.

If your Child Arrangement case goes to Court, all decisions will be based around the child's welfare. Other considerations will include the child's wishes, feelings, their needs, the possible affect any decisions will have on them. The Court will typically also ask Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (CAFCASS), or Children's Services, to prepare and submit a welfare report which will help to inform the judge's decision.

How to apply for a Child Arrangement Order?

To apply for a Child Arrangement Order you must fill out a C100 form and submit it to the court. The form requires information about the child, the parties involved, and the desired arrangements. You may also need to attend a mediation session before the court hearing. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision. It is recommended to seek legal advice before applying.

How much does a Child Arrangement Order cost?

How much a Child Arrangement Order will cost will depend on the complexity of your case. You will need to pay a Court fee to apply for a Child Arrangement Order as well as your solicitor's fees. You don't need a solicitor to apply to a Child Arrangement Order. However, it is recommended that you have a solicitor throughout the process as it can be a complex area of law.

How long does a Child Arrangement Order take?

The length of time it takes to obtain a Child Arrangement Order varies depending on the complexity of the case and the court's schedule. It can take several months to a year or more to obtain a final order. The court will prioritise cases involving child protection and welfare.

How long a Child Arrangement will take depends on whether you can come to an agreement or not. If a Child Arrangement Order application has been made, the Court will arrange a 'directions hearing' with both parties. At this hearing, the Judge or Magistrate will determine what you can and cannot agree on and whether your child is at risk in any way and will encourage you to come to an agreement. If an agreement can be found, then that will be the end of the process. However, if one cannot be found then set out a timetable of what will happen next. This may include more mediation or attending what is known as a Separated Parents Information Programme. It may take several months for a Child Arrangement Order to be agreed.

Can you submit an application to vary a Child Arrangement Order?

Yes, it is possible to submit an application to vary a Child Arrangement Order. This can be done if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made, or if the order is no longer in the best interests of the child. The application must be made to the court that made the original order, and the court will consider the child's welfare as the paramount consideration.

How long does a child arrangement order last?

A child arrangement order can last until the child turns 18 years old, unless there is a significant change in circumstances that requires a new order to be made.

What issues can the family courts decide?

When parents are separating, divorcing or applying for civil partnership dissolution and can't agree on arrangements for their children, they can turn to the Courts for help. In England and Wales, there are specialist Family Courts. In Scotland, the Civil Courts handle family matters. The Family Courts can issue a Child Arrangement Order that will determine where the child will live, and the time spent with the other parent.

The child's welfare is the Court's paramount consideration when looking at questions of child arrangement. The Court has a duty to consider certain welfare issues, such as:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child concerned

  • Their physical, emotional and educational needs

  • The likely effect of any change in the child's circumstances

  • The child's age, sex, background and characteristics

  • Any harm or risk of harm

  • The capability of both parents to meet the child's needs.

When should I consider using the courts for a Child Arrangement Order?

You should consider using the courts for a Child Arrangement Order if you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent or guardian about where the child should live, how much time they should spend with each parent, or other important issues related to their care and upbringing. This is in accordance with UK law.

The decision to go to Court to resolve differences with your ex-partner should not be taken lightly. Many parents report negative experiences of the processes due to the adversarial atmosphere. All of this can make co-operation with your ex-partner a lot harder in the long term. However, using the Courts has to be a consideration if you and your ex-partner are unable to reach agreement over important issues such as parental responsibility and child arrangements.

What are child arrangement rights?

Child arrangement rights refer to the legal rights of parents or guardians to make decisions about where a child lives, who they spend time with, and how they are raised. These rights are governed by UK law and are designed to ensure that the best interests of the child are always taken into account. They can be established through court orders or agreements between the parties involved.

Research suggests that the children who adjust best to family separation are those that are able to maintain a relationship with both parents. There is actually no parental right of arrangements with children. Arrangements are the right of a child, not the parent. If parents are unable to agree arrangements, the family Courts can determine. All decisions are based on the welfare of the child. There is a presumption in law that a child will have a relationship with both parents.

What are the arrangement options?

Depending on the parents' relationship arrangement options can be relaxed and agreed through ongoing discussion. Others will be far more formal and specific in terms of times and dates. Children, especially younger ones, often respond to routine. Try to get a balance between being inflexible and being unpredictable.

What types of arrangements are there?

You may agree that your child lives mostly with you.

There could be a shared arrangement where a child lives with both parents. Arrangements around time spent with each parent and patterns of arrangements vary greatly.

An arrangement could be where a child lives mostly with one parent but sometimes stays with the other may work. This could be one night a week, one weekend in two or simply a few days in every school holiday.

If one parent does not have suitable accommodation or there is some other reason why an overnight stay may not be practical a visit offers an alternative.

Supervised time may be decided by a Court where there are particular problems, for example, when there are high levels of conflict. This usually takes place at a supervised contact centre.

Where no direct arrangements are permitted it is important to use other methods of keeping in touch with your children. This might be through letters, postcards, gifts, telephone calls or emails.

Child Arrangement Orders are orders of the Court and failure to comply with them can be a contempt of Court. This can lead to serious consequences.

Often disputes arise within families regarding where children should live, for example upon parents separating, or whether the children should have arrangements with the parent that they don't live with.

Often cases can be resolved without the need for Court Proceedings and at Forbes Solicitors we will make every effort to do so. We are always mindful of the fact that cases involving children are particularly sensitive.

At Forbes Solicitors, we can help any family member whether you are a parent, grandparent or other family member or friend. Our Family, Divorce and Children Law Solicitors are here to help you in any way that we can. Whether you simply require some straightforward legal advice, a letter sending or, if necessary, Court Proceedings can be issued.

We offer our private paying clients the option of our tailored service or for more straightforward cases a fixed fee service. We also offer advice on some areas for those who qualify for Legal Aid.

Who can apply for a child arrangement order?

Under UK law, any person who has parental responsibility for a child, or any person who has obtained the permission of the court, can apply for a child arrangement order. This includes parents, guardians, and other family members or individuals who have a significant relationship with the child. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision on the application.

What factors do the courts consider when making a child arrangement order?

When making a child arrangement order, the courts consider the child's welfare as the paramount consideration. They also take into account the child's wishes and feelings, the child's age, sex, background, and any other relevant characteristics. The courts also consider the capability of each parent to meet the child's needs, the likely effect of any changes in the child's circumstances, and any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.

How long does it take to get a child arrangement order?

The time it takes to get a child arrangement order can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the court's schedule. However, the court aims to resolve cases within 26 weeks from the date of the application. In urgent cases, the court may make interim orders before the final order is made.

Can I change a child arrangement order?

Yes, it is possible to change a child arrangement order. However, you will need to apply to the court for a variation order. The court will consider whether there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made and whether it is in the best interests of the child to make a new order. It is important to seek legal advice before making an application to the court.

What happens if one parent breaches a child arrangement order?

If one parent breaches a child arrangement order, the other parent can apply to the court for enforcement action. The court may order the breaching parent to comply with the order, impose a fine, or even impose a custodial sentence. The court may also make changes to the order to ensure the child's welfare is protected.

Can grandparents apply for a child arrangement order?

Yes, grandparents can apply for a child arrangement order under UK law. They must first seek permission from the court to make the application, and demonstrate that they have a significant connection with the child and that the order would be in the child's best interests. The court will consider all relevant factors before making a decision.

What is the difference between a child arrangement order and a parenting plan?

A child arrangement order is a legally binding court order that sets out where a child will live and who they will have contact with. A parenting plan is an informal agreement between parents that outlines how they will share parenting responsibilities and make decisions about their child's upbringing. The main difference is that a child arrangement order is enforceable by law, while a parenting plan is not.

What is the difference between a child arrangement order and a parenting plan?

A child arrangement order is a legally binding court order that sets out where a child will live and who they will have contact with. A parenting plan is an informal agreement between parents that outlines how they will share parenting responsibilities and make decisions about their child's upbringing. The main difference is that a child arrangement order is enforceable by law, while a parenting plan is not.

Do I need a solicitor to apply for a child arrangement order?

No, you do not need a solicitor to apply for a child arrangement order. However, it is recommended to seek legal advice as the process can be complex and it is important to ensure that the best interests of the child are taken into account. It is also possible to apply for a child arrangement order without legal representation, but it is important to ensure that all necessary documents are completed correctly and submitted on time.

Our dedicated Family/Divorce team

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Partner and Head of Department, Family/Divorce

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Partner and Head of Department, Family/Divorce

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Partner, Family/Divorce

Gill Carr

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