What is a child arrangements order?

When parents separate, it is necessary to make arrangements for any children they may have to spend some time with each parent. If agreement cannot be reached amicably, then you can ask the court to make a child arrangements order. This will include details of when you can see your child, with whom they will live and what will happen during the school holidays.

The term child arrangements is intended to replace more emotive terms such as custody, access, residence and contact.

Obtaining a child arrangements order

If you are unable to agree with your ex how much time you will each have with your children and where they will live, then you can ask the court to make the decision for you.

Before applying to the court for a child arrangements order, you must both attend mediation. Your legal adviser will be able to put you in touch with an accredited mediator. If mediation does not work, you will not be forced to continue with it, but you must be able to show the court that you have attempted to reach an agreement in this way.

If after mediation you still need to apply for a child arrangements order you will need to submit an application to the court. The court will forward a copy to the Family Court Welfare Service on the Isle of Man or to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service if you are in England and Wales for them to carry out safeguarding checks.

The court will look at the information it has and whether you have reached any sort of agreement with regard to your children and may ask for further hearings or reports to be carried out. At all times, it will have regard to the best interests of any children involved.

If the children are old enough, the court will take into consideration their wishes about where they live. Other issues that will be taken into account include the child’s needs and how capable each parent is of meeting these, any risk of harm to the child, the effects of any potential decision and any other relevant factors.

Once a child arrangements order has been made, it will usually remain in force until the child reaches 16, or 18 if the order only states where the child will live.

It is possible to apply to the court to have a child arrangements order changed in the future if circumstances chance.

Enforcing a child arrangements order

Where one party repeatedly fails to abide by a child arrangements order, application can be made to the court to enforce it.

The court would first hold a hearing to consider the extent of the non-compliance and whether a welfare officer needs to be involved.

Attempts will then be made to help the parties agree, by referring them to mediation or another similar programme.

If appropriate, the original order may be varied to make it more suitable for purpose. In extreme circumstances, the court may make an enforcement order, impose a fine or even start committal proceedings. This is very rare however, as the court’s primary concern is always the welfare of the children.

In summary

Attempting to each a mutually acceptable agreement with your children’s other parent is always preferable and this is the solution preferred by the court. Using available resources such as mediation can help both parties understand the other’s point of view and reach an agreement which is in your children’s best interests.

If you do wish to have an arrangement made by the court, Quinn Legal will be happy to guide you through the process and advise you on your options.

Our family team have extensive experience of handling child contact matters and know the legal processes inside and out.

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