Separating from a partner or being unable to see your children can be an unsettling time. Our solicitors are experienced in assisting with child contact issues and can offer help and advice.
When a couple separates or divorces, if they have children, they will need to reach an agreement on the arrangements for who a child will live with (also known as residence or custody). This could be an arrangement where the child spends roughly equal time with each parent or, with one parent for the majority of the time, in which case it will need to be agreed how often the child will spend time with the other parent (also known as contact or access).
If they cannot come to a mutual agreement parents can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to set out with whom the child will live, and, if necessary, how often that parent must make the child available to spend time with the other parent.
A Child Arrangements Order is the final option in a situation where the couple cannot come to a mutual agreement. Ultimately the Court will make a decision about these arrangements based on what is in the child’s best interests.
It is worth bearing in mind that the application criteria for a Child Arrangements Order is not limited to just the child’s birth parents. In fact, anyone who has lived with the child for more than three years can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. As can a Step-Parent and anyone else with Parental Responsibility or a ‘Child Arrangements live with Order’ (Residence Order) for the child. Other people can apply, for example, relatives who do not fall into the above category, however, they require the Court’s permission.
A ‘Child Arrangements live with Order’ (or Residence Order) will last until the child is 18. A ‘Child Arrangements spend time with Order’ (or Contact Order), once put in place by the Court, will last until the child is 16. If circumstances demand, this may be extended until the child is 18.
In the case of a ‘Child Arrangements spend time with Order’ it is the responsibility of the person named in the Order as the parent the child lives with to ensure they make the child available to spend time with the other parent, as stated in the Order and they may be held in contempt of Court if they are found to have breached the Order without a reasonable excuse. The consequences can include being fined, ordered to undertake unpaid work, or even sent to prison.
The Court Order may also include ensuring parents (or guardians, etc) are still involved in their child’s school progress – often with guidelines that schools should contact them directly – and outline any extraneous circumstances that would also be allowed, such as taking children on holiday outside the UK, etc.
You can embark on getting a Child Arrangements Order without the legal advice and assistance from a specialist Family Law solicitor. It is likely, however, that this will make the process even more difficult and unsettling for you. Responding to letters appropriately, understanding how to fill forms in properly, and knowing how the Court operates all work in the favour of legal professionals when working on Child Arrangements Orders.
As it is such an important issue, affecting the whole family, getting everything right first time is essential, and that’s where we can help you.
We take the time to fully understand your circumstances and establish what your ideal outcome of a Child Arrangements Order application would be. It is our job to help you get the very best result for you, whilst being a supportive voice in your corner.
If you need a Child Arrangements Order and want to ensure you get the very best outcome possible, get in touch with us so we can discuss your situation further.