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.
Ways to reach an agreement so no child care arrangement order is needed
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 solicitor, 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.
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.
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