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  • A shared care order is a type of child arrangement. There is a mistaken belief shared care means 50/50 split of the child’s time between separated parents which is not true. 

    Section 8(1) Children Act 1989, defines a child arrangement order as an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:

    • With whom 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

    The courts used to be reluctant to make orders sharing the care of children between separated parents. The general approach was for the child(ren) to stay with one parent as their main carer and have contact with the non resident parent.  The standard type of child arrangements order, the court will make for a non resident parent is:

    • Alternate weekend contact
    • Midweek contact for the weekend they child’s stays with main carer
    • Half school holidays
    • Sharing of Christmas and Birthdays and other special occasions.

    In the last 17 years, the court’s approach to shared care orders appears to have shifted and they are becoming more popular arrangements between separated parents and in some circumstances the court may consider a shared care arrangement to be suitable for the child. 

    When considering any child arrangement applications, the courts will apply welfare checklist (s1(3) Children Act 1989) and have regard to the following:

    • Wishes and feelings of child (in light of their age and understanding)
    • Physical and emotional needs of child
    • Likely effect on child of any change in circumstances
    • Child’s age, sex, background and any circumstances which the court considers relevant
    • Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
    • How capable each of child’s parents and any other person is of meeting the child’s needs

    Each case will depend on the facts but the court makes an order they consider to be in the best interests of the child; however, for a shared care arrangement to work there does need to be a degree of amicability and flexibility between the parents and consideration of impact upon the child moving between one household to the other household with ease. 

    If there are warring parents who are unable to agree on the upbringing of their child(ren) or child arrangements then a shared care order is unlikely to work.

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