Child arrangements order
Child arrangements order formerly known as residence or contact order is used to regulate who a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person. A child arrangements order can therefore deal with both issues of ‘residence’ and ‘contact’.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
The following people do not require the court’s permission before making an application to the court:
- a parent;
- a stepparent or civil partner who has parental responsibility for the child;
- a guardian or special guardian; or
- any person who is named in child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live.
- Someone who the child has lived for a period of 3 years within the past 5 years (must include the last 3 months);
- Someone who has the consent of the person named in a Child Arrangement Order a living with the child;
Someone with authority over a child who is in the care of the Local Authority;
- Someone with the consent of all the people that have parental responsibility for the child.
Any induvial that fall outside of the above categories, will require the courts permission to start proceedings for example grandparents.
The Court Procedure
When an application for a child arrangements order has been issued there will typically be three hearings before a final order is made by the Judge. However, subject to the complexity of a case, there may be interim hearings listed to deal with various matters that may arise.
- First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA)
The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA) is the first hearing within child arrangements proceedings. The purpose of this hearing it to identify the issues in the case and establish the next steps in attempting to resolve them. The court will be assisted by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) who will work with the parties. Following this hearing the Judge will provide further directions on what the parties need to do in preparation for the next hearing.
- Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA)
The Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA) is typically the second hearing within child arrangements proceedings. The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the issues between the parties and try to resolve them where possible. This helps to narrow down any areas of dispute. At this stage the court will have to their perusal any evidence produced by the parties as well as reports made by CAFCASS. If the issues still cannot be resolved, then the Judge will likely make further directions for a final hearing to be listed.
- Final Hearing
The Final Hearing is the last hearing within child arrangements proceedings. The purpose of this hearing is for the Judge to make a decision on the application and for a final order to be made. The Judge will take into account all the evidence compiled in the case as well as considering the outstanding issues. When an order is made it become legally binding and therefore must be complied with.
How does the court reach a decision?
There are a range of factors that the court must consider during child arrangements proceedings. The most important is the welfare of the child in accordance with the ‘Welfare Checklist’ at Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989 as follows:
(3) In the circumstances mentioned in subsection (4), a court shall have regard in particular to—
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
Q: How long does a child arrangement order last?
A: A child arrangement order lasts until a child is 16. In exceptional circumstances an order can be made for longer.
Q: How much is the court fee?
A: £232 is the court fee for a child arrangements application.
Q: Who are the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)
A: Cafcass are body of qualified social workers that work alongside the court in Family courts advising them about the safety and best interests of children. They are child focused and ensure to put the wishes and feelings of children the paramount consideration.