Going through any relationship breakdown is a very emotional time and agreeing on how and when children spend time with their parents will often be at the forefront of parents’ minds. Understandably parenting when you are no longer in a relationship with the other parent can be challenging. Fortunately, most parents are able to agree on the arrangements for their children without too much difficulty by talking and finding a solution together. This may be with the assistance from a third party such as a family consultant and/ or mediator.
It is best if parents can work together to sort out the arrangements for their children between themselves, without the need for any formal legal action to be taken. There is a ‘no order’ principle that applies to arrangements for children, which means that the Court will not make an order unless it is in the interests of the children to do so.
Sometimes when parents’ separate issues can arise about where, and with whom, the child or children will live with. When the arrangements cannot be agreed, either parent can make an application to the Court for what is known as a ‘Child Arrangements Order’. Sometimes this is referred to as a ‘living with both parents order’.
A Child Arrangements Order is an order that details who a child is to live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with, and also where a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with any other person. Every case will be dependent on the circumstances of the individual family and what is in the best interests of the child. There is ‘no one size fits all’ approach.
There is a presumption, when the Court deals with an application for a Child Arrangements Order, that each parent should be involved in the child’s life, although it is important to note that this presumption does not apply where that involvement would not be in the best interests of the child’s welfare.
The following factors, known as the Welfare Checklist, set out the factors that must be taken into account when sorting out the arrangements for children:
When issues do arise, there are several alternative dispute resolution options to resolve matters and put in place arrangements for children. Court proceedings should be considered a last resort, although in some circumstances they are the only option.
So, what approaches are there?
If Court proceedings are inevitable, then how do you apply?
If you are one of the following then you can make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order:
Typically, a Child Arrangements Order will end when the child reaches the age of 18. This is unless otherwise specified in the order. These orders automatically end if the parents live together for a continuous period of more than 6 months after the order has been made.
We are a specialist family law firm with offices in Horsham, Brighton, London and Hampshire. We advise on all aspects of family law, including Child Arrangement Orders. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Rachel Nicholl is a Senior Associate, Solicitor and Collaborative Lawyer based in our Horsham office.