There are different types of Child Arrangements Orders that a Court can make, and the application can also be made on an ‘agreed basis’ where parents or family members are able to agree the arrangements for a child(ren) and simply require a Court to formalise the arrangement via an Order. It is always advised to instruct a Solicitor to prepare this Order for you as there are key legal provisions which will need to be included.
What’s the difference between Custody and a Child Arrangement Order?
Often referred to a Custody or Child Custody, or questions asked such as “who gets custody of the children”, Courts now refer to as Child Arrangements. Essentially the two are the same, but the language used changes the focus from who gets the children to what are the best arrangements for the children.
Why do I need a Child Arrangements Order?
There are many reasons why you might wish to apply to a Court for a Child Arrangements Order, but ultimately, the overarching reason will be to have a legally binding order in place that allows you to spend time with the children when without such an Order you might find yourself being excluded from their upbringing or in disagreement as to the arrangements.
It must also be recognised that a Child Arrangements Order is not so that the adult can spend time with the children, more that the children can spend time with the adult. It is the child’s right to have access with an adult (whether that be a parent or grandparent) and a Court will order what such access looks like based on the best interests of the child.
Child Arrangements Orders are governed by section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and are granted by the Court provided the Court is satisfied that making such an order is in the best interests of the child.
Can Grandparents Apply for a Child Arrangements Order?
In short, yes! The same process must be followed which necessitates the parties involved to take part in mediation as a first port of call, after which, if mediation is deemed inappropriate or ineffective, then Grandparents may apply for a CAO. A grandparent will have to first apply to the Court for “permission” to make an application as they do not have parental responsibility.
A Grandparent may wish to apply for a Child Arrangements Order if there has been a family dispute and maybe one of the parents is now preventing them from spending time with their grandchild. In this instance, a Court could order the parents to allow a defined amount of time periodically for the grandparent and grandchild to spend together.
In certain circumstances, it may be that the Grandparent feels that it is in the best interests of the child for that child to live with them as opposed to the parent. You can read more on this issue in this blog which outlines in detail the options for grandparents when it comes to seeking time with their grandchildren.
What Will a Court Consider when Making a Child Arrangements Order?
In principle, a child can live with either parent after they separate, and on any basis. Often however, separating couples allow their personal feelings towards each other to cloud the most important factor, that being their child’s best interests. When such conflict occurs, it’s often necessary to resolve through Mediation or an application to Court for a Child Arrangement Order.
There are many factors which a court will consider if you are unable to reach your own agreement. These include:
The wishes and feelings of the child. Especially for older children.
Knowing what your child wants and how they feel is an important aspect of creating a solid foundation for future relationships between parent and child. Allowing your child to express their wishes and feelings will give them a feeling of inclusion and giving them the space to input into any agreements will influence their acceptance of any new arrangements.
The child's physical, emotional, and educational needs.
Factors such as the child’s physical needs (perhaps accessibility), emotional, (perhaps a young child whose vast majority of time has been spent with one parent more than the other), and education (perhaps the child has built a solid friendship group at a school where they are excelling) will all be a factor in any order being made.
The possible effect on the child of any significant changes in circumstances.
Significant changes in circumstances can disrupt the stability of a child’s emotional wellbeing. If one parent’s geographical location means extensive travel and time away from well-formed friendship groups for example, then a court will consider these factors when ordering an arrangement.
Other factors that a court will consider are the age of the child, any known harm or risk of harm, and how capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs.
There are many reasons why you might wish to apply to Court for a Child Arrangements Order. For example, you may wish to regulate the day-to-day arrangements for a child, change a child’s surname, or sort out disputes which may have arisen in relation to school holidays. Every case is unique, and it’s always advised to speak to a specialist for advice.
How do I apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
If you are looking to make an application to Court and require assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our team. We can help guide you through the process and can even help with mediation, which is required prior to making an application.
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About Jane Auty
Jane has specialised in family law since qualifying as a solicitor and particularly enjoys helping people find a way through their divorce or separation outside the court process. Jane qualified as a collaborative lawyer in 2006. Jane specialises in dealing with the financial aspects of divorce and has extensive experience in guiding clients through all aspects of family law breakdown. She has a strong reputation for dealing with complex high net worth financial cases frequently where there is an overseas element, business assets, pensions, trust or a farming element. Jane also deals with prenuptial/post nuptial and separation agreements. She is committed to negotiating settlements amicably and constructively wherever possible and prices herself on a conciliatory but firm approach.
Outside of work Jane is a season ticket holder at Leeds United and loves attending live music events. Jane is a keen swimmer and during lockdown has attempted to grow her own vegetables and take up gardening.
Jane is a member of Resolution and is committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational way wherever possible. Jane is a member of Dovetail a collaborative group of lawyers.
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