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In this guide, we’ll discuss the child care arrangement order in detail and explain when you might need one.
As we touched on above, a child care arrangement order is a type of court order which sets out everything from where your child will live to the contact they will have with the other parent.
It can also detail the type of contact that will occur with the other parent, such as video calling or face-to-face meet-ups, as well as when this will take place.
The child care arrangement order has replaced the old residence order and contact order.
Not everyone will need a child care arrangement order. Applying to the court for a child care arrangement order should normally be viewed as a last resort if you and your spouse cannot agree on child arrangements upon divorce.
Having a child care arrangement order is by no means compulsory. Usually, parents are able to come to an agreement between themselves about who the child will live with and the contact they will have with the other parent, without the need for a child care arrangement order.
Before you apply for a child care arrangement order, you will have to show that you have attended a meeting about mediation. This is known as a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM). There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as if domestic abuse has taken place.
In the MIAM, you should be given information about other options you could opt to try, before you apply to the court for a child care arrangement order.
At the end of the meeting, if it is determined that the alternatives are not suitable, the mediator should give you a piece of paper to this effect, which you will need to give to the court when you apply for a child care arrangement order.
As well as the mother and father of the child, anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a child care arrangement order.
Other people may be able to apply for a child care arrangement order too, but they will need to get permission from the court before doing so.
The process of getting a child care arrangement order can take time, as it involves several different stages. As such, it may be that a temporary child care arrangement order (an interim order) is put in place for the duration of the process.
Firstly, an application for a child care arrangement order needs to be prepared and lodged with the court. Your solicitor can deal with your child care arrangement order application for you.
The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) for the child care arrangement order normally takes place around 4 weeks after the application for the child care arrangement order is submitted.
Often, an agreement can be reached at this meeting and, if so, the case can then be concluded. If not, a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) report may be required (typically taking 12 weeks), which will make recommendations to the court. There would normally be at least one other hearing at this point.
Finally, the final hearing will take place, where the court will make its decision about the child care arrangement order.
The length of time it will take to obtain a child care arrangement order depends on various different factors, such as what evidence is required and when the court is available to hold the hearings. Needless to say, it can take several months.
At the time of writing, it costs £215 to apply for a child care arrangement order. Solicitor fees will vary, depending on factors such as whether an agreement can be reached at the FHDRA or whether your case goes to the final hearing, as well as how complex your case is. Speak to your solicitor for an estimate for obtaining a child care arrangement order in your circumstances.
The welfare of your child will always be the court’s top priority when it is making its decision about the terms of a child care arrangement order.
When making its decision, the court may take into account factors such as:
• the child’s physical and emotional needs (as well as their educational needs)
• how any change in circumstances would affect the child
• any risk of harm
While the court may take the child’s wishes into account when deciding a child care arrangement order, it is under no obligation to follow the child’s wishes if the court believes they are not in the child’s best interests.
Normally, a child care arrangement order for contact will continue until the child in question reaches 16 years of age. A residence child care arrangement order (which details where the child will live) will normally last until the child reaches 18 years old.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot agree about changes to the child care arrangement order, you can apply to the court to vary it.
If you and your ex both agree to changes to the arrangements detailed in your child care arrangement order, you can change these without getting another order.
Court should normally be viewed as a last resort, as applying for a child care arrangement order can be both time-consuming and costly. In addition, applying to the court for a child care arrangement order can often serve to fuel tensions, during what is an already difficult time.
If possible, both parents should attempt to reach an agreement and avoid going to court for a child care arrangement order. If you cannot come to an agreement, you could try to agree a way forward through methods such as mediation (where an independent third party aids discussions between you and your spouse) or collaborative law (you, your spouse and your respective solicitors meet up to discuss possible options).
Seeking advice from an experienced solicitors, such as Austin Kemp, as early on as possible in the process, may help you to reach an agreement with your spouse without the need to pursue a child care arrangement order. Then, if an agreement cannot be reached, your solicitor should be ready to act to apply for a child care arrangement order, if necessary.
Making child contact arrangements following a separation or divorce is often stressful and logistically taxing. Depending on the state of your relationship with your ex-partner, you may reach an agreement quickly and amicably. For conflicting parents, however, legal assistance is often required to reach an agreement.
For parents without custody of their children, the duration and frequency of contact time can vary widely. Typical visitation periods last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. Parents who move abroad or have highly demanding jobs, for example, may not be able to see their child as much as those who remain local.
If they are old enough to make decisions for themselves, you may wish to prioritise your child’s preferences about where they reside. Many children enjoy spending a night or two a week at their non-resident parent’s house, for example, while others prefer to keep visitation periods to daytime hours.
Ultimately, typical child contact arrangements fit around parental commitments and financial practicalities. If your child is still relatively young, these arrangements are likely to change over time.
Here are a few examples of typical child contact arrangements to help guide your decisions:
Often, the children of separated parents live with either their mother or father at a primary residence. This parent has custody, whilst the other can spend time with the child at intervals set out in a contact agreement. While mothers still make up the overwhelming majority of resident parents, the number of fathers taking sole residency responsibilities is rising.
This custody arrangement remains one of the most popular as it provides children with a sense of stability and security, benefits that are fundamental to healthy emotional development. For some parents, however, sole residency arrangements are unfeasible as they prevent the non-resident parent from enjoying a close relationship with their child.
Joint residency agreements involve the child splitting their time between both parents and moving between residencies regularly. Such arrangements are not particularly common in the UK, but they are becoming more popular as fathers adopt an increasingly active role in their children’s lives.
Joint residency arrangements are often preferable in cases where children have a strong relationship with both parents. They are also great for working parents hoping to juggle professional responsibilities with child-rearing responsibilities.
Practically speaking, however, joint residency arrangements can cause difficulties and disputes. Successfully navigating shared custody involves meticulous planning, with parents having to communicate regularly about domestic tasks such as washing uniforms or signing forms for school trips. In this way, an amicable relationship between both parents is a must.
With a bird’s nest arrangement, the child in question remains in the family home, while both parents move between this primary residency and a smaller property. This form of parenting represents a child-first approach to separation as it reduces much of the stress young people feel when moving to a new home.
While bird’s nest parenting can be hugely beneficial to children, it can take a financial and emotional toll on parents. Moving between two properties on a weekly or monthly basis can be tiring and unsettling and can sometimes stoke resentments between ex-partners.
The aforementioned arrangements don’t have to be set in stone. Sometimes, a combination of sole and joint residency solutions is implemented to align with parents’ schedules and commitments. As such, the amount of time a child spends with each parent from week to week could vary widely.
Flexible arrangements often suit parents whose jobs involve lots of travel or complicated shift patterns. It worth bearing in mind, however, that the unpredictability of this form of parenting can be disorienting and upsetting for younger children.
During term-time, non-resident parents sometimes reduce contact time to ensure their child can focus on their schoolwork, attend after-school activities, and maintain a regular sleeping pattern. Possible solutions include an arrangement whereby the child stays overnight with the non-resident parent on alternate weekends.
The agreement could involve school-drop offs and pick-ups to ensure the non-resident parent enjoys as much time as possible with their child.
If overnight stays are out of the question due to work commitments or other practicalities, the arrangement could involve a few hours of contact time every week with the non-resident parent.
School holidays represent an opportunity for parents to enjoy more flexible residency arrangements. If a non-resident parent wishes to spend more time with their child while they’re off school, however, it is important to arrange plans in advance.
If possible, try to spread contact time out equally between parents. It is also important to discuss whether either parent wishes to take the child abroad at any point. If one parent does not agree to the other taking the child on holiday, the former may require permission from the courts to go ahead with their plans.
Making arrangements for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, or Easter can be difficult. Possible solutions could involve alternating where the child spends their time from year to year or arranging two Christmases – one on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day.
If you’ve recently separated from a partner and want to discuss your child contact arrangements with a trained legal professional, do not hesitate to reach out to Austin Kemp. We offer discreet legal services for high-net-worth individuals experiencing child custody disputes. Whatever your situation, our highly qualified experts are on hand to listen and work towards your desired outcome. Get in touch today to arrange a consultation.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to child care arrangement orders, including:
For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email email@example.com.
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:
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