For the majority of our client’s it is their first time approaching us in relation to a child related dispute or any family related matter, it is therefore inevitable that there will be many questions asked in relation to both the court process and possible outcomes with circumstances which they face.
We have therefore complied a Q & A of the most frequently asked questions in relation to child arrangement order application to provide a better understanding for our clients when they are either about to start this process or are in the middle of defending an application.
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
Child arrangement orders have replaced the existing ‘residence and contact’ orders, these child arrangement orders are made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 to allow individuals with parental rights to apply for the following:
Outline where the child lives;
How much time the child will spend with each parent;
Where the child attends school;
When a specific action needs to be prevented from being taken i.e. one parent wishes to relocate the child to a different city/country;
What type of contact an individual will have with the child and if it will be supervised or unsupervised.
When should I apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
It is always preferred by the court that individuals resolve all child arrangement matters outside of court and mutually come to an agreement, if parties are able to come to a resolution without the assistant of the court there is no need to file a child arrangement order.
However, if parties are unable to come to an agreement in relation to the child or one parent is unreasonably withholding contact or is simply negligent it is then necessary to file a child arrangement order.
Who can apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
Child arrangement orders are usually filed once the biological parents of the child have decided to either separate or file for divorce, however this does not limit who can apply for the order. Any individual who holds parental responsibility of the child in question can apply for a child arrangement order this can range from step-parent, listed guardian or other relatives i.e. grandparents.
It is common for grandparents to apply for child arrangement orders when they feel their contact/interaction with their grandchild is being unfairly restricted, however the order will not be considered if the grandparent is not listed as a guardian of the child. In these cases the grandparents will need to seek additional permission from the court before they can commence the process of the child arrangement order.
What is the progress of getting a Child Arrangement order?
The Child Arrangement Order Process is lengthy and one which requires the cooperation of both parties, the steps to make an order are the following:
Prior to filing an application to the court, both individuals must attend a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) this is when a qualified mediator will be present to attempt to come to a resolution. In most cases mediation will be considered compulsory prior to filing the C100, however if the matter is urgent then the mediation step can be surpassed.
If the parties have not come to a resolution after attending the MIAM they can then file a C100 application, once the order has been received by the court, they will issue directions for the first hearing to be held. CAFCASS will be present at the hearing where they may have been ordered by the court to produce a report, to help the Judge reach an agreement. This report is better known as a Section 7 report.
If there are various issues outlining the child’s welfare and safety this may result in several hearings with further directions being issued, CAFCASS will become heavily involved when assisting the court and it will be imperative that you be clear and transparent with CAFCASS to enable them to report properly to the court.
The final hearing will be held when the court has come to a decision regarding the arrangements, all relevant parties will be served with the final order.
What is a C100 form?
A C100 Form is a document which the individual will need to submit to the Family Court to make a decision in relation to the child’s arrangement, these C100 Form’s can be used for the following:
Child Arrangement Order – This order allows the court to decide where the child will live and how much contact the child will have between both parties and other individuals, this contact can also be supervised.
Prohibited Steps Order – This order is filed to prevent the other party from taking certain steps in relation to the child, the most common example would be to prevent the other party from moving away or abroad with the child.
Specific Issue Order – This order is filed when both parties are unable to agree on a specific issue in relation to the child, this allows one individual to seek permission from the court to grant a specific outcome without the permission of the other party. Examples of this would be decisions relating to the child’s education, permitting holidays abroad etc.
Can I apply for an urgent child arrangement order?
Individuals are able to apply for urgent child arrangement orders in the circumstances where the child’s safety and welfare is at risk, in addition to filing a C100 the individual will also need to file a statement outlining the reasoning for filing an urgent order, examples of this would be if the child is suspected of suffering from domestic violence or other forms of harm which negatively impacts them.
How long can a Child Arrangement Order be enforced for?
The standard duration of when a child arrangement can be enforced is up to the age of 16, in certain exceptional cases this can be 18 years old unless the order specifically states otherwise. In the circumstances where both biological parents or parties with parental rights start to co-habit together, the order will be deemed as invalid after 6 continuous months of cohabitation.
Is a Child Arrangement Order legally binding, and what happens if it is breached?
In the UK a child arrangement order is legally binding, and failure to comply with the order and in events where the order is breached the court will implement certain sanctions on parties.
When the court are informed of the breach, they will ask CAFCASS to intervene and assess the reasoning behind the non-compliance bearing in mind the best interest of the child.
If a breach has been established in the form of non-compliance of the order the individual in breach may be intrusted to attend mediation to resolve the issue of non-compliance, or issue a Contact Enforcement Order, imposing a fine or seek whatever other punishment which is suitable.
In extreme cases the court may look at the breach and the level of non-compliance and reconsider the terms of the current order and re-issue it accordingly.
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangement Order?
There is no prescribed time frame when it comes to obtaining child arrangement orders and the waiting time can vary depending upon numerous factors, when a child’s safety and welfare is considered, this may prolong the process. CAFCASS will be instructed by the family court to produce a report in relation to the initial enquiries, the court will look upon this and see how to act according to issue an order.
How much does it cost?
Child Arrangement Order applications can be expensive, therefore we always inform our clients of the costs upfront for these matters and allow our clients to choose from either a fixed fee or on hourly rates basis, whichever they find easier.
Our estimated costs will be taking into account on the issues of the case, how complex it is and also the amount of hearings that you will need for the final order to be made.
Our fees for this work do start from £2000 + VAT and does not include Disbursements such as court fees, Barrister costs for hearings and any expert reports that you may need to obtain.
Court Fees for all types of Children Act applications can be found on the list EX50 which you can view by clicking here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1021895/EX50_web_0921.pdf
For any other information in relation to child arrangement orders or other family matters please contact our team of lawyers at Nido who will be able to assess and guide you on the next steps for your matter.