Residence & Contact Disputes – Child Access
Often parents manage to reach mutually acceptable decisions, whether with the help of a mediator or a similar professional, but some sadly do not.
There can also be disputes about the level of financial support each parent should provide for the children, or when one parent wishes to go and live elsewhere within the U.K or overseas with the children. See Financial ProvisionÂ for Children, International Relocation of Children and International Child Abduction for further information.
Common child access and welfare issues are:
- With which parent the child should live;
- How much time the child should spend with each parent;
- The religious up-bringing of the child;
- Any proposed medical treatment; and
- The child’s education.
Child arrangement order process
We recognise the value of alternative dispute resolution to help parties settle in a voluntary, consensual and confidential manner. However, if this fails we will need to issue an application through the Court. This application is commonly known as an application for a child arrangements order. If you choose to appoint Fletcher day, our child access solicitors will prepare the application on your behalf and arrange for this to be issued and served upon the other party before arranging representation for you at the first Court hearing and any subsequent Court hearings.
The Court usually requires input from experts in children matters. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is an independent body of social workers and probation officers which advises the Court on what it considers to be the best interests of the children. At the first hearing before the Court, a duty CAFCASS Officer will normally be present. If the case is not resolved at that stage, the Court may order a report from CAFCASS or, at the expense of the parties, from an Independent Social Worker.
Child arrangement court hearing
When deciding on orders, judges must consider the checklist set out in section 1 of the Children Act, 1989. The factors that must be taken into account are as follows:
- The wishes of the child, taking into account age and understanding
- Physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect of any change in circumstances
- Age, sex, background
- Any harm which he the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The capability of each parent and any other person the court considers relevant, of meeting the child’s needs
- The range of powers available to the court
How we can help you
At Fletcher Day, our team of specialist child access solicitors in London have a combined knowledge of over 80 years of post-qualification experience covering a wide and extremely varied client base. We have an understanding of the courts up and down the country as well as disputes involving child arrangements orders. We have a collection of reported cases, varied and specialised experience as well as a combined tenacious attitude to argue your case in the best and most effective way possible. Our child access lawyers act for a wide range of individuals from our local City client base to all sorts of individuals based both here and internationally.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch on 020 7766 5260 , fill in our ‘How can we help’ form or get in touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Can Apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
Anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. This could be a blood parent or step parent. If you donâ€™t have Parental Responsibility of the child, youâ€™ll need to request permission from the Court to make a separate application for Parental Responsibility.
This can sometimes be avoided if the other parent is willing to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement with you.
Can I Change My Child Arrangement Order?
Once the Order has been issued by the Court, it is possible to vary it. If the variation can’t be agreed with the other party directly, then a further application to the Court will have to be made whereby a similar procedure will be followed to the initial application. The Court will need to reassess the facts to see what has changed to justify amending the Order before deciding on what’s 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 Arrangement Order Last?
The 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.