Once referred to as residence and contact applications, child arrangement orders specify with whom the children shall live and the time they spend with the other party.

The court has a wide discretion regarding the orders it can make in relation to children which can include shared care, term time and school holiday contact, special occasion contact and much more. The aim of Court proceedings is to determine a workable routine that can provide clarity and stability for the children’s ongoing relationship with both parties. However, it must be highlighted that court involvement should be the last option for parties when all other forms of alternative dispute resolution have broken down.

Before applying for a child arrangements order, you will need to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting, also known as a MIAM, unless exemptions apply. Only if mediation is not deemed suitable or the process breaks down will you be provided with paperwork to allow you to proceed to Court.

Click here to see our helpful flowchart with more information on the Court process.

1. My ex-partner and I are unable to communicate effectively about the arrangements for our children. We have tried mediation but this has broken down. Can I apply to court for an order?

When agreement cannot be reached the Court is there to assist you in recording arrangements for the children. However, the Court cannot replace effective communication between you and your ex-partner. This is something that will need to be prioritised and worked upon by you both in the interests of your children.

Within any court proceedings the parties are encouraged to attend a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) which can often help see the effects of separation on the children and provide tools to help assist with communication and co-parenting in the future.

2. My child is extremely forthright in her views about contact with my ex-partner; will her views be taken into consideration by the Court?

The paramount consideration of the Court within any child arrangement proceedings is the welfare of the child. When a Court considers any question relating to the upbringing of that child it must have regard to a specific welfare checklist.

One of the considerations in the checklist is the wishes and feelings of the child. In some cases these are explored in detail with a Court appointed officer from CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). However, this will be dependent on the issues in the case and of course the age and understanding of the child.

3. During our relationship my partner was physically abusive to me. I am concerned for the safety of my children if they were to have unsupervised contact with my ex-partner. Will this be considered?

Any domestic abuse is taken very seriously by the family Courts and will be a major consideration in any proceedings. These issues should be flagged with CAFCASS at the early stages to enable a safeguarding assessment to be undertaken. If you need advice regarding a domestically abusive relationship and the options available to you please see our information on domestic violence injunctions.

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