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Our team of divorce & family law solicitors can provide help for parents who are struggling with a custodial dispute, whether or not they end up going to court for a child arrangements order. our team of divorce & family law solicitors can provide advice and advocacy, help with drafting legal documents and agreements, and other tasks.

Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.

In England and Wales a Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that sets out details of who is responsible for the care of a child. This type of Court Order is usually used in cases where the parents cannot agree between them how to split the care of their child/children.

A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives;
  • when your child spends time with each parent;
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example).

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply.

What Is The Difference Between A Child Arrangements Order And A Special Guardianship Order?

A Special Guardianship Order is needed when a person other than the parents, as agreed by the courts, is responsible for your child’s or children’s day-to-day arrangements. This does not change your legal relationship with the child, so they remain a member of your family even though they are living with their special guardian. The Special Guardianship Order gives the special guardian parental responsibilities, and leaves the guardian free to make decisions about how to bring up your child or children.

Why is a Child Arrangements Order Necessary?

Divorcing or separating parents can’t always come to an agreement on matters like child custody, especially if the separation has been an acrimonious one. When the parents can’t come to a decision on their own, one or both parents may apply to the court for a child arrangements order. This order can stipulate where and with whom a child lives, when and where they have contact with a non-custodial parent, and certain other matters relating to the child’s welfare.

Who Can Apply For A Child Arrangements Order?

Certain categories of people are entitled to make an application for a child arrangements order under Section 8 without having to seek permission from the court first, and they are:

  • the parent, guardian or special guardian of a child;
  • any person who has parental responsibility;
  • anyone who holds a residence order in respect of the child;
  • any party to a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family;
  • anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years;
  • anyone who has obtained the consent of:
    • the local authority if the child is in their care; or
    • everyone who has parental responsibility for the child.

Other people can make an application to the court for permission to issue an application for a child arrangements order. It is usually via this route that wider family members such as grandparents are able to apply for orders in respect of their grandchildren. In deciding whether to give permission the court will take into account, among other things:

  • the nature of the application;
  • the applicant’s connection with the child; and
  • the risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that they would be harmed by it.

Requirement to Attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, before making an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order (or other relevant family application), a prospective applicant must attend a family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’), to ascertain whether the issues can be resolved by mediation rather than by application to court.

This does not apply where:

  • There is evidence of domestic violence;
  • There are child protection concerns;
  • The application must be heard urgently because delays would, for example, risk the safety of the child or the applicants, cause miscarriages of justice or hardship to the applicant;
  • There has been previous MIAM attendance or a MIAM exemption; or
  • Circumstances mean that MAIM attendance may not be a reasonable or appropriate requirement.

It is the responsibility of the prospective applicant or that person's legal representative to contact a family mediator to arrange attendance at a MIAM.

What Is The Step By Step Process For Child Arrangements Order?

The formal application requires a court fee to be paid and this currently stands at £215.00 (as of 24/01/2019). The application would need to explain the orders sought and the issues at hand. The court will consider the application bundle before they issue it and thereafter the formal proceedings commence.

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA)

If the application is issued, the court will normally list the matter for the first hearing. This is known as the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Hearing (FHDRA). The aim is to consider the parties issues and identify the steps to resolve the issues. This hearing will also normally be attended by a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service officer (CAFCASS). They aim to safeguard the best interests of the children. The purpose of attendance at this hearing is for everybody to try to help the parties to resolve the issues. This is not always possible. If the parties cannot reach agreement, the court will set directions (i.e. to exchange witness statements) to progress the matters

Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA)

The next hearing that can be listed is a Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA). The aim of this hearing is to try to resolve the disputes or at the very least narrow the points of contention. The on-going evidence directed would be considered and this will often also include consideration of any report(s) from CAFCASS. If the issues are not resolved, the matter will likely be listed for a final hearing.

Final Hearing

It is very important that the parties try to settle the issues at each stage of the case. This is with a view to avoiding the substantial costs that can often be attached to a final hearing. During this hearing, the court would consider the outstanding issues and evidence submitted. It is likely that at this stage you will be questioned by both your legal representative and the other party’s legal representative.

The Judge will then consider the issues and make a judgement which shall be enshrined within a child arrangements order.

What Factors Are Considered By Judge In Making Child Arrangements Order?

The Court will consider the following:

  • The primary consideration is to the welfare of any children;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child concerned;
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision;
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision;
  • Any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering;
  • The capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs;
  • The powers available to the court;
  • The court will also consider if making no order is suitable in the circumstances.

Who Has Parental Responsibility As A Result Of Child Arrangements Order?

A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may also provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.

Can I Change My Child Arrangements Order?

It is possible to vary the child arrangements order once it has been issued by the family court. If the variation can’t be agreed with the other party directly, then a further application to the family court will have to be made whereby a procedure similar to the initial application will be followed. The Court will need to reassess the facts to see what has changed to justify amending the Order before deciding on what is in the child’s best interests.

Parents can still make agreements to the child’s care outside of the Order, as most Orders will provide for changes to arrangements by agreement. However, these are usually one-off arrangements and if a wholesale change is to be made, then it’s better to vary the Order formally to ensure it can be enforced.

How Long Does a Child Arrangements Order Last?

The child arrangements order will last until the child is 16, or in some exceptional circumstances, until 18. If you reconcile with your ex-partner and move back in together, then the Order will cease after you’ve lived together for six months.

How Much Sunrise Solicitors Charge For Child Arrangements Order?

Our Fixed Fees For Child Arrangement Order

Our fixed fees for various stages of the child arrangement order are given in the table below. The agreed fixed fee will be dependent on the volume of work involved in the case and the complexity of the matter. Please be advised that our fixed fees do not cover the Barrister's fees.

Casework Stage Fixed Fee Range (Acting For The Applicant) Fixed Fee Range (Acting For The Respondent)
  • preparing and filing child arrangement order application (C100 Application);
  • attending the court the initial court hearing called First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment.
From £700 + VAT To £1,200 + VAT From £600 + VAT To £1,000 + VAT
Interim Hearing (if listed) From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT From £500 + VAT To £800 + VAT
Fact Finding Hearing (if listed) from £2,000 + VAT To £3,000 + VAT from £2,000 + VAT To £3,000 + VAT
Dispute Resolution Hearing / Early Final Hearing From £2,000 + VAT To £3,000 + VAT from £2,000 + VAT To £3,000 + VAT

Final Hearing

Preparation for Final Heaaring which includes the following:

  • complying with court directions;
  • preparing any witness statements;
  • instructing and briefing the Barrister for the court hearing;
  • attending any pre-hearing conference with the barrister, where necessary;
  • making necessary preparations for the final hearing;
  • attending the family court for Final Hearing to assist the Barrister in the case.
From £3,000 + VAT To £4,000 + VAT From £3,000 + VAT To £4,000 + VAT

Our Hourly Rates For Child Arrangement Order

  • Our team of family law solicitors will charge on hourly rate basis with hourly rate starting from £120 + VAT per hour in relation to your child arrangements order application. The agreed hourly rate will be dependent on the complexity of the matter.

How Much Is The Court Fee For Child Arrangements Order?

  • The court fee for filing child arrangements order application in the family court is £215 which has to be paid at the time of filing the application. Petitioners with very low income may qualify for court fee exemption.