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When will a Judge change a residence order?

As time moves on after your divorce and the children grow older, the child arrangements you made at the time your relationship ended may no longer be suitable. Is it possible to get a residence order changed?

And for what reasons would a judge change a residence order? We take a closer look…


What is a residence order?

A residence order was a court order which specified with whom the child should live.

Residence orders and contact orders have now been replaced with child arrangement orders. If you already have a residence order, there’s no need to re-apply.

The child arrangements order replaces both the old residence order and contact order (which detailed the contact that would take place with the non-resident parent).

For those who already have a residence order, there is no need to reapply for a child arrangements order.

residence orders


Can a judge change a residence order? Reasons to change a residence order…

There are many reasons to change a residence order. Maybe the children’s school is now closer to the non-resident parent and living there would shorten their daily commute. In addition, the children may want to live with the other parent for a variety of reasons, such as new siblings or a new partner.

Alternatively, the non-resident parent may be worried that the resident parent is no longer able to look after the children properly.

People have their own personal reasons to change a residence order.

However, before going to court to ask a judge to change a residence order, it’s usually best to discuss the child arrangements with the other parent, to see if you can come to an agreement between yourselves. A solicitor can advise and help you with this, especially if communication is difficult between you and the other parent.

Whatever your reasons to change a residence order, if you cannot reach an agreement between yourselves, attending mediation may help you to find a solution without going to court. Applying to a judge to change a residence order can be expensive and time-consuming.

If you both reach an agreement, it may be possible to make any changes legally binding, by asking your solicitor to draft a consent order for the court to approve. Unless the changes to a residence order are made legally binding, you will not be able to enforce the changes in the future.


When can a residence order be changed

If you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement, you should speak to a solicitor about whether it may be possible to make an application to vary the existing residence order.

If you ask a judge to decide how to change a residence order, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory & Support Service) will normally be asked to prepare a report, which will include the children’s desires. Cafcass will then make recommendations to the court.

If you are worried that the children are at risk of harm, it’s important to act quickly and seek advice from a solicitor. In this instance, it may be possible to file an urgent application to suspend contact, pending investigation.


Asking a judge to change a residence order: the court’s primary concern is the child’s welfare

The welfare and needs of the child will always be paramount when a judge is considering changing a residence order.

If you want to change a residence order and the other parent agrees, you can apply to make these changes into a legally binding consent order. If the other parent does not agree, you will have to apply to the court to ask a judge to decide how to change the residence order.

Whatever your reasons to change a residence order, it’s always best to seek legal advice before taking action.


What a residence order means

A residence order is a court order which names the person with whom the child will live. You may want to apply for a court order of this kind following the breakdown of your relationship with the other parent.

A residence order, or more recently the child arrangements order, is not obligatory. Many parents are able to come to an arrangement about who the child will live with and the contact they will have with the other parent, between themselves. This is known as a ‘family-based arrangement’. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to apply for a court order.


Who can get a residence order?

Either parent, or anyone with parental responsibility, can apply for a residence order. Anyone else will need to get permission from the court before applying for one.


Can grandparents get a residence order?

Grandparents would have to obtain permission from the courts before applying for a residence order.


How to get a residence order

It is highly recommended that you seek legal advice from an experienced family solicitor, such as Austin Kemp, before applying for a residence order.

Normally, you will need to attend a mediation information meeting before you can apply for a residence order. In some instances this may not be necessary, such as if there has been domestic abuse.


When does a residence order end?

A residence order can be made for a specified amount of time. It will normally not last beyond a child’s 16th birthday. However, in exceptional circumstances, a residence order may be extended until the child reaches 18 years old.


Alternatives to a residence order

As we touched on above, applying for a residence order is not necessary in all instances.

If you and the other parent are unable to come to an arrangement between yourselves, you could get help to reach an agreement. For example, you could both attend mediation, where an independent third party, known as a mediator, will aid discussions between you and the other parent, with the aim of reaching an agreement.

Alternatively, you could use collaborative law, where you, the other parent and your respective solicitors, meet to discuss child arrangements.


Other articles that may be of interest to you?

What adultery means for your divorce

What are my rights to property after separation?

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

When is decree absolute granted in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

What are the first steps to divorce?

Is a cheap divorce really possible?

What is a managed divorce?


How can our expert divorce solicitors help you with residence orders

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to divorce, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on residence orders

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP

Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL

Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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06th February 2020

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