If parents decide to separate, one of the most important factors to consider is arrangements for children. For example, where children will live, how much time they’ll spend with each parent, and how they will be financially supported.
Often, separating couples will use a solicitor to draw up a legally binding agreement. This is known as a consent order, which is signed by both parties before being passed to a judge for approval.
Sometimes, separating couples may be unable to agree on child arrangements, even after mediation attempts. If that is the case, it is necessary to apply for a court order called a Child Arrangement Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This order will set out where a child lives, when and where they have contact with the non-custodial parent, and other matters relating to child welfare.
When Is A Child Arrangement Order Necessary?
Applying for a Child Arrangement Order should be the last resort for parents who can’t agree on arrangements for children. In most cases, a Child Arrangement Order application cannot be made until mediation has been attempted.
If mediation fails, then the final option is a Child Arrangement Order. In this situation, the court will come to a decision that considers the best interests of the child or children involved.
Who Can Apply For A Child Arrangement Order?
Only some individuals can apply for a child arrangement order. They are:
- A parent, guardian, or special guardians
- Anyone who currently has parental responsibility for the child/children
- A person in a marriage or civil partnership where the child/children is a child of the family (even if they are not a biological parent)
- A person with whom the child/children have lived with for more than 3 years
- A person who already has a Residence Order for the child/children
Before applying for an order, permission must be given by the courts.
What Factors Are Taken Into Consideration By The Courts?
After applying for a Child Arrangement Order, both parties will have to attend a direction hearing where a judge or magistrate will pinpoint what can be agreed on, what can’t be agreed on and if the child or children are at risk in any way.
Throughout the process, both parties will be encouraged to reach an agreement between themselves through mediation. If an agreement still can’t be reached, then the final decision will be made by the judges or magistrates involved in the case. In this, they will consider several factors including the child’s wishes, their physical, emotional and educational needs, and possible risk of harm.
Once this decision is finalised, the Child Arrangement Order is legally binding until the child or children reach sixteen years of age, unless otherwise stated.
Getting Help From A Solicitor For A Child Arrangement Order
Solicitors specialising in Family Law can give help and advice to separating parents who cannot agree on arrangements for children. They can also provide support in drafting legal documents, making arrangements for mediation, and making an application for a child arrangement order.
At Salmons Solicitors, we’re here for you if you’re worried about what the future holds for you and your family. We will support you to consider every option available to you, and provide advocacy and advice whatever you decide. To explore your options, please contact us to speak to our family legal team.