In what circumstances do I need a child arrangement order?
The circumstances surrounding a child arrangements order vary depending on each individual family and situation.
To make the arrangements clear and legally binding, some people enter into a child arrangement order by agreement, called a consent order. However, an order is usually applied for where arrangements cannot be agreed, or a person has encountered issues with previously agreed arrangements not being complied with.
Who can apply for a child arrangement order?
Anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a child arrangement order. This can include:
- A parent, guardian or special guardian.
- A step-parent or another person who has parental responsibility for the child by way of a parental responsibility order or agreement.
- Anyone who has a 'live with' child arrangements order in their favour already.
- Any person who has parental responsibility by being named in a child arrangement order for the child to have contact/spend time with them.
The following other people can also apply:
- A person who has the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child, or everyone who has a 'live with' order in their favour.
- Any person in a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family.
- If the child is in local authority care, a person who has the authority's consent.
- A foster parent or other relative, if the child has lived with them for one year immediately before making the application.
- Anyone who the child has lived with for a period of three years.
Anyone who falls outside of the above will require the permission of the court to apply. This includes extended family members such as grandparents, uncles and aunts if none of the above apply to them.
How long is the arrangement order valid for?
An order for a child to live with a person lasts until the child turns 18. An order for a child to spend time with a person lasts until the child turns 16. The Court will not make an order for a 16 or 17 year old to live with a person unless exceptional circumstances apply.
Who decides where the child spends their time?
Parents should try and decide arrangements between themselves in the first instance. If this is not possible, the court will make the decision if asked to.
Who decides the best interests of the child, on what grounds?
If the child's parents cannot reach an agreement either one of them can apply to the Court. The court will have to decide what is in the child's best interests and will consider certain factors known as the welfare checklist:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (in light of their age and understanding)
- The child's physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- The child's age, sex and background and any other characteristics the court considers relevant
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- How capable the child's parents (or other relevant person) is of meeting their needs
- The range of powers available to the court
Does the child get a say in who they live with?
This depends on the child's age, so generally, the older they are, the more weight will be given to their wishes and feelings, but this isn't the only factor the court will consider.
Which court deals with child arrangement orders?
An application should be made to the court most local to the child who will be subject to the application. For example, for a child residing in the Warwickshire area, the local court would be Coventry.
What are the types of child arrangement orders?
A child arrangements order sets out who the child should live with and/or spend time with. However, there are two other types of order the Court can make which sometimes get confused with a child arrangements order. These are a prohibited steps order and specific issue order.