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What is a Child Arrangements Order and when can it be applied for ?

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Child Arrangements Orders are Court Orders that confirm whom a child is to live with and/or spend time with (often referred to as “contact or access ”). In short, they set out  the arrangements for children where agreement cannot be reached between (most commonly) their parents .

“Contact”  is sometimes broken down into two sub-categories: direct and indirect. Direct contact concerns face-to-face contact; whereas indirect contact refers to contact via telephone or letters and  cards or technology, such as online video chats, skype or emails . 

Child Arrangements Orders are governed by section 8 of the Children Act 1989.  The court can make a Child Arrangements Order of its own initiative or in response to an application a party has made. 

Considering any child arrangements can be quite challenging, highly complex and emotional. The arrangements can be made between parents themselves and then can be recorded in a legally binding Consent Order where matters are agreed. Alternatively, the arrangements may be agreed with the assistance of independent bodies, such as mediators and/or lawyers.

Mediators can assist parents in coming to an independent agreement regarding their children, which can later be converted into a legally binding order. 

However, in a number of cases, mediation does not always allow the parties to reach an agreed outcome. Matters may therefore need to be referred to a solicitor who can negotiate and  if arrangements still cannot be agreed the lawyers can  refer the matter to  Court.

The person making the application, (the Applicant), is required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’) before submitting their application to the court.  The aim of a MIAM is to ascertain whether mediation would assist  the parents’ in  reaching an agreement.  If the Applicant is exempt from a MIAM and/or the matter cannot be settled through mediation, then the Applicant will be entitled to submit their application to the court.  At Emery Johnson Astills, we can advise whether an exemption applies.

It is a commonly held belief that only a parent can apply for a Child Arrangements Order and whilst most applications are made by parents, this is not always the case. There are a number of people who can apply including a person with whom a child has lived for a period of at least three years eg a step parent. Emery Johnson Solicitors can advise you whether you are entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order.

Other people can make an application to the court for permission to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order. It is usually via this route that wider family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles are able to apply for Orders to spend time with the children. This is really important as these wider family members are important to the children and these are often relationships that should be maintained but aren’t always when parents or couples separate. The Court considers various factors when deciding whether to grant permission.

The Family Team at Emery Johnson Astills can offer advice if you are seeking to put arrangements into place to have contact with a child. If you would like some further advice on child arrangements following a separation, please contact a member of the Family Team on 0116 2554855.