What are Child Arrangements Orders?
Child Arrangements Orders regulate who a child is to live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with and when a child will live, spend time or otherwise have contact with a person.
For example, if you and your partner have separated and you think your child should live with you, but your partner objects, then you will need to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order regulating your child's living arrangements.
If you have agreed with your partner with which parent a child will live but cannot agree on the amount of time that the child will spend with the non-resident parent then you need to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order regulating contact arrangements.
Orders regulating a child's living arrangements
The Court may now regulate a child's living arrangements by making any of the following a Child Arrangements Order:
- Naming one person with whom the child is to live
- Naming two people who live in the same household together, as persons with whom the child is to live; often these Orders are made in favour of a child's parent and step-parent.
- Naming two persons who live in different households as persons with whom the child is to live. The Order will specify the time that the child will live in each household.
Effectively this is a shared care arrangement and allows the child to live with both parents in their respective households following separation. The division of the child's time in each household may not necessarily be equal.
The benefits of having a Child Arrangements Order
If you are the person named with whom a child is to live in a Child Arrangements Order, this would entitle you to take the child abroad for up to one month without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the Court. If you are not a parent named as the person with whom a child lives under a Child Arrangements Order, then you would not have that right. If you wish to take your child abroad for a holiday then you would have to apply to the Court for what is known as a Specific Issue Order if the other parent will not consent.
Orders regulating the contact arrangements
If the amount of time or level of frequency that a child spends with the other parent cannot be agreed between the parents, it may well be necessary to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to settle these arrangements. There are a number of types of contact that can be ordered including direct and indirect contact arrangements. They include arrangements whereby the child will have contact with a named person by staying with them or visiting them. Indirect contact may be by way of letter, email, Skype, Instant Meassages or telephone. The Court may also order overnight or visiting contact arrangements, supervised and unsupervised contact arrangements. Child Arrangements Orders usually come to an end when a child reaches the age of 16 years but can continue until a child is 18 years old. In exceptional circumstances, the Court can stipulate the duration of the Child Arrangements Order. If the child's parents live together for a continuous period of more than 6 months after the Order has been made then a Child Arrangements Order will automatically end.
When should you apply for Child Arrangements Orders?
In general terms there is a 'no Order presumption', which means that the Court will not make Orders unless it is in the child's best interests to do so. Accordingly, if parents agree where children are living and how often contact arrangements are going to take place then there is no need to apply for any Court Order at all.