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When going through a divorce, one of the crucial aspects to address is making child arrangements. This process involves determining where the children will live, how much time they'll spend with each parent and financial support.
In the event that you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an agreement on the time your children will spend with each parent, the Court has the authority to intervene and issue decisions on your behalf. These decisions are now referred to as Child Arrangements Orders, replacing previous terms such as Child Contact, Child Custody Orders, and Residence Orders.
These legal agreements specify the child's residence, the allocated time for contact with each parent, and identify the people the children are permitted to see during these contact periods.
There are 2 types of Child Arrangement Orders;
Live with – the Court can decide which parent the child will live with, or if they will live equally with both parents.
Spend time with – when parents cannot agree the arrangements for the child to spend time with the parent they do not live with, the Court can decide the exact timings.
If you and your ex-partner can reach a mutual agreement regarding your child's upbringing and daily life, a parenting plan is an excellent way to document these arrangements. To make this agreement legally binding, a consent order can be drafted with the help of a legal professional.
This formalises the details, providing a legal recourse if one parent fails to adhere to the terms. While court approval is typically straightforward, a judge may intervene if the arrangements are deemed unfair or not in the best interests of the child.
In situations where reaching an agreement is challenging, perhaps due to differing parenting philosophies or conflicts related to new partners, mediation is a recommended first step. Mediation demonstrates a genuine effort to find amicable solutions. If mediation proves unsuccessful, applying for a court order becomes necessary. Anyone with parental responsibility can initiate this process.
There are various court orders available, each tailored to specific situations and objectives.
- A child arrangements order addresses where the child will live and their contact with each parent.
- A specific issue order is designed to address particular questions, such as education or medical treatment.
- A prohibited steps order prevents one parent from taking certain actions or making specific decisions about the child's upbringing.
Establishing child arrangements during a divorce is a critical step, and understanding the legal avenues available is essential. Whether through mutual agreement, parenting plans, or court orders, prioritising the best interests of the child is paramount.
Seeking legal advice and exploring mediation can pave the way for an effective resolution, ensuring a smoother transition for everyone involved.
When determining child arrangements, the court places the safety and welfare of the child as the top priority.
In certain cases, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) may assess safeguarding issues by engaging with the parents and the child, evaluating the home environment, and providing an independent report outlining the child's needs.
The court considers various factors, including the child's wishes, emotional, physical, and educational needs, age, and background. Stability is emphasised, with the court favouring arrangements that ensure parents can effectively address the child's requirements.
Existing arrangements, like living predominantly with one parent and weekend visits to the other, may be maintained unless safeguarding concerns arise. Allegations of welfare or domestic violence issues prompt the court to investigate further to make sure that the final decision aligns with the child's best interests.
When a parent fails to adhere to a child arrangements order, the affected party can seek resolution through an enforcement order. If the court upholds this application, the non-compliant parent may be deemed "in contempt of court," leading to potential consequences.
The responsibility falls on the non-compliant parent to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for breaching the order. Common violations include being late or not showing up to contact meetings, deviating from agreed plans, or taking a child on holiday without the other parent's consent.
Consequences for breaching the order may include 40-200 hours of unpaid work or repayment of incurred losses. In extreme cases, imprisonment is a rare but possible outcome. However, the court may choose not to enforce the order if there's evidence of a valid reason or if an alternative arrangement is deemed in the best interests of the children.
Certainly. If there's a disagreement with the other parent regarding a child arrangement order, you have the option to seek a variation through the court.
It's essential to apply to modify the terms of the order rather than denying access or breaching it, which could lead to enforcement proceedings initiated by the other party.
Our team is available to help you navigate and reach legal agreements on matters concerning your children.
At GloverPriest, we understand that each situation is sensitive and that everyone’s circumstances are different. This is why we tailor our service to find the best outcome for your situation.
In some areas of family law, we offer an introductory consultation with an expert member of our legal team. This meeting is free and designed for you to get to know our firm and your solicitor and to discuss your case in further detail.
We believe that many clients find the initial consultation highly beneficial in helping them make informed decisions on how they wish to proceed.
At GloverPriest, we provide friendly and transparent family law advice. If you would like further help on child arrangements, please don’t hesitate to speak to one of our expert family lawyers today. Complete our enquiry form.