What is an interim child arrangements order?
An interim child arrangements order is a temporary order that is put in place whilst the court is making its final decisions about enforcing a permanent child arrangements order. Child arrangements orders have replaced contact orders and residence orders. Depending on the circumstances, the court may not decide to impose an interim order.
A child arrangements order decides who a child will live with, spend their time with, and have general day-to-day contact with. An interim order, therefore, makes temporary plans for the child whilst the final decision is being made. An interim child arrangements order may place the child in the care of one parent or ensure that regular contact is made with another parent for instance.
The court will make a decision about temporary arrangements based on what is in the best interests of the child. They can establish this by looking at the child’s relationship with each parent along with other factors such as their needs and welfare. The court will often need to know about any safety risks before it can make a decision about an interim order.
In many cases, the court is unlikely to make an interim order without first receiving a safeguarding report or letter from CAFCASS. CAFCASS is instructed by the court to provide information about the safety of a child. They do this by carrying out checks with the police and local authority to see if there are any safety risks. Before the first court hearing, CAFCASS will provide a safeguarding letter which is a short report that highlights the safeguarding check outcomes. It is a simple document flagging issues rather than a detailed assessment at this stage.
If during the first court hearing an agreement can’t be reached on the child arrangements, the court will use the CAFCASS letter to decide what will happen next. For example, if concerns about domestic violence or other risks are raised then the court is likely to ask CAFCASS to do further enquiries and a fact-finding hearing may be arranged where they gather further information about the child’s home life and parenting.
After this, a final decision is made, and the child arrangements are confirmed and made legally binding.
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