Child Arrangements Orders

Child Arrangements Orders have now replaced both Contact Orders and Residence Orders. The new orders do the same thing and are still occasionally referred to using the old terminology.

If the parents of a child cannot agree arrangements, such as where the child will predominantly live and with which parent, or how often the child will see the other parent, for example weekends and holidays etc. – either parent can apply to court for a Child Arrangements Order for the court to decide the matter.

However, before an application for an order can be made the parties must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is designed to see if the parties can actually agree some common ground and to avoid the need for a court order and the time and expense that goes with attending court and seeking an order.

The parties will not be made to attend a MIAM where it would be unsuitable or inappropriate, for example in the case of an order required in an emergency or where there is evidence of domestic abuse or violence to the child.

Courts usually presume that both parents should have contact with a child, but the contact does not have to be equal in time. There are practical reasons why a child may spend more time with one parent than another. For example, a young child would be more likely to spend more time with their mother etc.

An order can also decide who should collect and deliver the children for contact visits, where the contact visit should take place and at what time. Child Arrangements Orders apply between the parents of the child.

However, a court can also make orders relating to other members of the family, for example when and how often siblings will see each other, (if living separately) and contact with extended family, such as grandparents etc.

In certain circumstances a court will order contact to be supervised, this means a third-party will be present during any contact. In these circumstances contact tends to happen at designated contact centres. A court will usually only order supervised contact where there are allegations of abuse or violence towards a child or partner committed by the party seeking contact.

Contact can also be ordered by a court to be indirect, for example sending birthday cards, letters etc.

The overriding principle for the courts in any decision is what is best for the child in the circumstances.

Prohibited Steps Order - to stop a child being taken