Child Arrangements Order

Child Arrangements Order
Child Arrangements Order
Full Overview Of Child Arrangements Order

At DLS Solicitors, we understand the immense importance of child welfare in family law cases. It is crucial to prioritise the best interests of the child, especially when parents are going through separation or divorce. Child Arrangements Orders (CAOs) are essential for determining children’s living and contact arrangements in these circumstances. This comprehensive overview aims to explain the nature, principles, and real-world applications of CAOs, highlighting their significance in today’s family law.

Definition and Purpose of Child Arrangements Orders

A Child Arrangements Order is a legal order issued by the Family Court under the Children Act 1989, as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014. It decides where a child will live (residence) and with whom a child will spend time or have contact (contact). The main purpose of a CAO is to promote the welfare and best interests of the child, ensuring that their needs are met in a stable and supportive environment.

Key Provisions and Legal Framework

The legal framework for CAOs is established under the Children Act 1989, with significant amendments introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. The key provisions include:

  1. Section 8 Orders: This section of the Children Act 1989 outlines the different types of orders that the court can make, including Child Arrangements Orders, Prohibited Steps Orders, and Specific Issue Orders.
  2. The Welfare Principle: Under Section 1 of the Children Act 1989, the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration in all decisions concerning their upbringing. This principle underpins all aspects of CAOs.
  3. The Welfare Checklist: Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989 provides a checklist of factors the court must consider when determining a CAO. This includes the child’s wishes and feelings, physical, emotional, and educational needs, and the effect of any change in circumstances.
  4. No Order Principle: The court will not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all. This principle aims to avoid unnecessary legal interventions.
  5. Parental Responsibility: Parental responsibility is a key concept in CAOs. It refers to the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority a parent has in relation to their child. Both parents typically share parental responsibility unless it has been removed by a court order.

Types of Child Arrangements Orders

CAOs can be tailored to suit the specific needs and circumstances of the child and their family. The main types of CAOs include:

  1. Residence Orders: Residence orders determine where and with whom a child will live. These orders can be sole (where the child lives with one parent) or shared (where the child divides their time between both parents).
  2. Contact Orders:Contact orders specify the arrangements for a child to have contact with a parent or other significant persons. Contact can be direct (face-to-face) or indirect (telephone, letters, video calls).
  3. Shared Residence Orders: Shared residence orders allow a child to live with both parents at different times. This arrangement promotes the involvement of both parents in the child’s life and can be structured to suit the child’s needs.
  4. Specific Issue Orders: These orders address specific questions about a child’s upbringing, such as education, medical treatment, or religious upbringing.
  5. Prohibited Steps Orders: These orders prevent a parent from taking certain actions concerning the child without the court’s permission, such as relocating abroad.

Principles Guiding Child Arrangements Orders

The court is guided by several key principles when making CAOs:

  1. The Child’s Welfare: The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration. The court prioritises the child’s needs and best interests over those of the parents.
  2. The Welfare Checklist: The court considers the factors outlined in the welfare checklist, including the child’s wishes and feelings, their physical and emotional needs, the likely effect of any change in circumstances, and any harm they have suffered or are at risk of suffering.
  3. Parental Involvement: The court recognises the importance of both parents being involved in the child’s life, provided it is safe and in the child’s best interests. There is no presumption of shared residence, but the court seeks to ensure meaningful involvement from both parents.
  4. Avoiding Delay: Delays in making decisions about a child’s future can be detrimental to their welfare. The court aims to resolve matters as promptly as possible.

Process of Applying for a Child Arrangements Order

The process of applying for a CAO involves several stages:

  1. Mediation and Dispute Resolution: Before applying to the court, parents are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to explore the possibility of resolving disputes through mediation. Exceptions apply in cases of domestic violence or urgent issues.
  2. Filing an Application: If mediation is unsuccessful or inappropriate, an application for a CAO can be made to the Family Court using Form C100. The application should include details of the proposed arrangements and any relevant supporting information.
  3. First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA): The first court hearing, known as the FHDRA, aims to identify the issues in dispute and encourage settlement. The court may make interim orders and give directions for further hearings or expert reports.
  4. Fact-Finding Hearing: In cases involving allegations of domestic violence or other serious issues, the court may hold a fact-finding hearing to establish the facts before making a final decision.
  5. Final Hearing: If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case proceeds to a final hearing. The court will hear evidence from both parties and any experts, and make a binding decision on the CAO.

Child Arrangements Orders: Challenges and Considerations

Several challenges and considerations can arise in the context of CAOs:

  1. High-Conflict Cases: High-conflict cases, particularly those involving allegations of domestic violence or abuse, require careful handling to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. The court may involve CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to provide independent assessments and recommendations.
  2. Parental Alienation: Cases involving parental alienation, where one parent attempts to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent, can be complex and emotionally charged. The court must carefully assess the impact on the child and take appropriate measures to protect their best interests.
  3. Relocation: Applications involving relocation within the UK or abroad require careful consideration of the potential impact on the child’s relationship with both parents. The court will weigh the benefits of the proposed move against the potential disruption to the child’s life.
  4. Special Needs: Children with special needs may require tailored arrangements to accommodate their unique requirements. The court will consider the child’s specific needs and each parent’s ability to meet those needs.
  5. Cultural and Religious Factors: Cultural and religious factors can play a significant role in CAOs. The court aims to respect and accommodate the child’s cultural and religious background while ensuring their welfare.

Notable Case Law and Judicial Interpretations

Several landmark cases have shaped the principles and application of CAOs in the UK:

  1. Re G (Residence: Same-Sex Partner) [2006] UKHL 43: This case established that the court must consider the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration, regardless of the parent’s gender or sexual orientation. The decision emphasised the importance of the child’s relationship with both parents.
  2. Re B (A Child) [2009] UKSC 5: The Supreme Court highlighted the importance of the child’s welfare and the need for a holistic approach when considering CAOs. The judgement stressed that the child’s best interests should be the guiding principle in all decisions.
  3. Re H (A Child) [2014] EWCA Civ 733: This case addressed the issue of parental alienation and the court’s approach to ensuring the child’s relationship with both parents. The court emphasised the need for early intervention and expert assessments to address alienation.
  4. Re C (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1157: The Court of Appeal considered the relocation issue and the factors the court must consider when deciding whether to allow a parent to move with the child. The judgment emphasised the need to balance the benefits of the move with the potential impact on the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Practical Applications of Child Arrangements Orders

CAOs can be applied in various contexts to ensure that the child’s best interests are met:

  1. Shared Residence: Shared residence arrangements can promote the involvement of both parents in the child’s life, providing stability and continuity. The court considers the practicalities of shared residence, including the distance between the parents’ homes and the child’s routine.
  2. Supervised Contact: In cases of concerns about a parent’s ability to care for the child safely, the court may order supervised contact. This ensures the child can maintain a relationship with the parent in a controlled and safe environment.
  3. Holiday Contact: CAOs can include provisions for holiday contact, allowing the child to spend time with each parent during school holidays and special occasions. This helps maintain a balanced relationship with both parents.
  4. Indirect Contact: In situations where direct contact is not feasible or safe, the court may order indirect contact, such as letters, phone calls, or video calls. This ensures that the child can connect with the parent while safeguarding their welfare.

Conclusion

Child Arrangements Orders (CAOs) are a crucial part of family law, ensuring that the best interests of children are prioritised during and after the breakdown of parental relationships. At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert legal advice and representation to help our clients navigate the complexities of CAOs.

By comprehensively understanding the legal framework, principles, and factors involved, we can assist our clients in establishing fair and just arrangements that promote the welfare of their children. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or litigation, our aim is to safeguard our clients’ interests and secure the best possible outcomes for their families.

As family law continues to evolve, it is essential to stay informed and adaptable in order to achieve successful outcomes in child arrangement matters.

Child Arrangements Order FAQ'S

A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that outlines where a child will live, with whom they will spend time, and other specific contact arrangements. It replaces the previous residence and contact orders.

Parents, guardians, step-parents, or anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. Other individuals, such as grandparents or relatives, may need to obtain permission from the court to apply.

The court considers the child’s best interests, including their wishes and feelings (depending on age and understanding), physical and emotional needs, the effect of any changes, the child’s age, sex, background, and any harm they have suffered or are at risk of suffering.

A Child Arrangements Order typically lasts until the child turns 16, unless specified otherwise by the court. In exceptional cases, it can continue until the child is 18.

Yes, a Child Arrangements Order can be varied or discharged if there is a significant change in circumstances. Either parent or anyone with parental responsibility can apply to the court to modify the order.

If a parent breaches a Child Arrangements Order, the affected party can apply to the court for enforcement. The court may impose penalties, such as fines, community service, or, in severe cases, imprisonment.

Mediation is encouraged as a way to resolve disputes amicably without going to court. Parents are generally required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before applying for a Child Arrangements Order unless an exemption applies.

Yes, a Child Arrangements Order can specify contact arrangements with other family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings, if it is in the child’s best interests.

The process involves filing an application with the family court, attending an MIAM (unless exempt), and proceeding through the court’s assessment, which may include hearings and involvement from CAFCASS. The court will make a decision based on the child’s best interests.

CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) plays a key role in assessing the child’s welfare and advising the court. CAFCASS officers may speak with the child, parents, and other relevant parties and provide a report with recommendations to the court.

Disclaimer

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:https://dlssolicitors.com/define/child-arrangements-order/
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):Child Arrangements Order. dlssolicitors.com. DLS Solicitors. July 14 2024 https://dlssolicitors.com/define/child-arrangements-order/.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):Child Arrangements Order. dlssolicitors.com. DLS Solicitors. https://dlssolicitors.com/define/child-arrangements-order/ (accessed: July 14 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):Child Arrangements Order. dlssolicitors.com. Retrieved July 14 2024, from dlssolicitors.com website: https://dlssolicitors.com/define/child-arrangements-order/
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts