A brief guide to Child Arrangements Orders

When a relationship breaks down emotions are high and it is not always possible for adults to agree the best arrangements for their children. As a result, children often become unintentionally caught in the middle of a dispute.

If you cannot reach an agreement, it may be in the best interests of your children to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that regulates the arrangements for the child and relates to:

  • with which parent or with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with, and
  • how much time a child is to  spend or otherwise have contact with a parent or any person.

Contact simply means the time a child spends with an adult and this can come in various forms i.e. direct face to face contact, indirect contact via letters, skype, texts or telephone, supervised contact or overnight staying contact. Not all types of contact are suitable in every situation nor for every child.

Although an Order may specify with whom the child is to live, this does not always mean full time.  Such an order could provide for the child to live for part of the time with one person and the remaining time with another.

How do I apply for a Child Arrangement Order?

Before any application is made there must be a referral to mediation, unless certain exceptions apply. The other parent or party to the proceedings will also be encouraged to attend. If agreement cannot be reached or the other party chooses not to attend mediation (or mediation is not considered suitable) you may be able to make an application to the Court. This is not always an automatic right.

Who can apply?

You have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order if you are one of the following:

  • the child’s parent, guardian or special guardian,
  • a person with parental responsibility for the child,
  • a step-parent or have parental responsibility under a PR agreement,
  • a person with whom the child has lived with for 3 years. The period need not be continuous but must not have begun more than 5 years before and ended 3 months before the application being made.

If you do not have an automatic right to make the application to the Court you may need to make a separate application first to gain the right.  For instance, this might apply to grandparents that do not fall into any of the categories above.

What happens after the application is made?

When the application has been issued the Court will list the case for a FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment). A Cafcass Officer (previously known as a Court Welfare Officer) will attend to try and help the parties reach an agreement that is in the child’s best interests.

If an agreement cannot be reached then the parties will identify to the Court the problems in dispute and these will be recorded and a way forward will be determined.

What factors will the Court consider?

In deciding whether an Order should be made, the court will have regard to a welfare checklist which is contained in The Children Act 1989 and which takes into account the following:

  1. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of the child’s age and understanding);
  2. the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  3. the likely effect on the child of any change in his or her circumstances;
  4. the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;
  5. any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  6. how capable each of the child’s parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs;
  7. the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

Under the Children Act the court will only make an Order if this is considered to be in the best interests of the child. When making any decision, the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.

Child Arrangements - Consultation

We can advise you at each stage in the process to ensure that you achieve the best outcome for you and your family.

You can be assure by the fact that our dedicated team has Law Society accredited specialists in Children Law. Accredited members must prove they have, and will maintain, a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice in the area of children law and the representation of children.

For further advice or to arrange a free initial consultation please contact Rachel, Amanda, Kathryn or Jonathon on Plymouth 01752 668246 or send an email by clicking here.

Rachel Shoheth
Amanda Lyons
Kathryn Akintunde
Jonathon Yates


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