Ultimate Guide To Child Arrangement Orders – Mediation Cheltenham

What is an Order for Child Arrangements?

Mediation Cheltenham Child Arrangements Order is a sort of court order that makes decisions regarding children, most typically on which parent they will reside with and whether or not they will visit the other parent.

A Kid Arrangement Order can be quite flexible, stating that a child resides with one parent and spends time with the other, or that the child spends equal time with both parents. If a kid resides with only one parent, the order can make choices concerning the child’s connection with the other parent, such as whether the child should spend the night at their residence or merely spend time with them during the day, as well as how the parents swap the child.

If one parent needs time to establish trust or if it is necessary to guarantee a kid’s safety, their contact with the child may be monitored by someone else or “indirect,” meaning they cannot physically see their child but can send them letters, birthday cards, or speak with them over the phone. If it is absolutely required for their protection, a Child Arrangement Order may also prohibit any contact.

Importantly, a Kid Arrangement Order may also state that a child resides with more than one parent to create shared care, and this may be the case even if the child spends the most of their time with one parent. This form of court order can establish a shared care arrangement between parents despite the fact that the time spent with each parent is not equal. This is to recognise both parents’ equal status to their kid despite the unequal time spent with each parent.

The language of a Child Arrangements Order might be as broad or explicit as necessary to protect the child’s best interests. For two parents who are capable of child-focused conversation, it can simply provide them with a sensible structure to work within and allow them to sort out the fine details, or it can be extremely prescriptive, mandating that handovers of children take place in a specific supermarket parking lot at 10 a.m. on Sundays, facilitated by the paternal grandmother. The courts prefer parents to agree as much as possible since this will always result in a better long-term outcome for a kid, but if one or both parents are unable to do so, the court can micromanage their relationship through the order to shield the child from their fight. ​

Who is eligible to get a Child Arrangement Order?

There are two groups of individuals who may seek a Child Arrangement Order:

1) applicants with the legal authority to do so; and

2) those who require judicial authorization to apply (i.e. everyone else)

How do you determine your identity? In general, a child’s parents have the right to apply, regardless of any questions regarding parental responsibility. Step-parents, assigned guardians, and anybody with whom the kid has resided for at least three of the past five years, including the three months before to the application, may also apply as of right. Notably, a grandparent does not have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangement Order for their grandchild, and they, like everyone else, may only apply for a court order with the consent of every other person with parental responsibility for the child, or failing that, with the court’s permission.

The following individuals may apply for a Child Arrangements Order without the court’s permission:

  • Any parent (regardless of parental responsibility), legal guardian, or special guardian of the minor
  • Any individual with parenting responsibilities
  • Anyone listed as the child’s custodial parent under a Child Arrangement Order that is currently in effect
  • Anyone who was a party to a marriage or civil partnership, whether or not it is currently in effect, in respect to which the kid is a member of the family; this permits step-parents to apply automatically.
  • Any person with whom the kid has resided for a minimum of three years in the preceding five years (must include the last 3 months)
  • Any individual who has the approval of the person listed in a Child Arrangement Order as the custodial parent
  • If the kid is in the care of a local authority, any anyone with consent from that authority may visit the child.
  • In all other instances, a person who has the approval of all persons with parental responsibilities for the kid may adopt.

Applicants who do not fit under one of the following categories must get authorization from the court.

How can I get authorization to submit a Child Arrangement Order application?

The application form for a Child Arrangements Order questions whether the applicant is eligible to apply or whether they require permission. If you need permission and are requesting it in the application, simply check the box on the application form. Then, you must complete Form C2 to accompany your application. This is the application to join or withdraw from an ongoing proceeding, as well as the request for authorization to apply. Both of these forms may be found online at www.gov.uk by searching for the form reference, “C100 application” for the order application and “C2 form” for the permission request.

In determining whether the application should be granted, the court will evaluate the nature of the request, its potential impact on the child, and the applicant’s relationship with the child. If the kid is in the care of a local authority, the court will also examine the local authority’s intentions for the child’s future as well as the child’s parents’ wants and feelings.

What is the duration of a Child Arrangement Order?

A Kid Arrangements Order that specifies with whom a child resides will remain in effect until the child becomes 18, unless the order specifies otherwise.

Typically, any provision in a Kid Arrangements Order allowing a child to spend time with another person expires when the child reaches the age of 16, however this can be extended to the age of 18.

A court may, of course, modify or otherwise discharge an order as it sees fit.

Therefore, a Kid Arrangements Order is not a permanent court order, but it remains in effect until the child achieves maturity or is competent to make independent decisions.

A court cannot issue a Kid Arrangement Order for a child older than 16 years old.

How can I submit a Child Arrangement Order application?

You can apply for a Child Arrangement Order by completing out form C100, which can be obtained at www.gov.uk (link opens in a new window).

However, simply filling out the form and submitting it is not sufficient.

Before submitting your application, you will be required to give evidence that you have attempted to address your disagreement outside of court.

You must have attended a Mediation Cheltenham Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), also known as an MIAM. During your MIAM, a mediator will discuss your goals and provide information on Mediation Cheltenham and alternative kinds of dispute resolution.

They will assist you in determining if Mediation Cheltenham is likely to help you resolve your case outside of court. The other parent will be encouraged to attend an MIAM, however attendance is not required.

Attending an MIAM is required unless you are exempt. We provide extensive information on the family court Mediation Cheltenham process and MIAMs, in which you may learn what they are, what occurs at them, and the many exemptions that may apply to your circumstance.

Our Family Court Help Centre provides a wealth of additional information about the Mediation Cheltenham process. If an exception applies or if Mediation Cheltenham fails for any other reason, you may move to court by filing an application.

When submitting your application, you can mention any parenting plan you’ve been utilising or trying to negotiate with the other party.

In some areas of the nation, you may now apply for a Child Arrangement Order online, a tool that is being gradually rolled out and makes the process much simpler.

Check to see whether you have access to this option, since it is only available in limited locations and under specified conditions. If not, you must submit your application form and three printed copies to the family court in your area.

Your application will always be handled by the family court closest to the child’s residence or primary place of residence. You can submit your application after attending an MIAM (or confirming an exemption applies), preparing a parenting plan, and completing the application form.

The court will approve your application regardless of how you submitted it, then call you for payment.

Despite implementing online applications, the courts have not yet made it possible to pay the required application fee online at the time of application submission. The court will call you immediately after you submit payment for your application to inform you of the date of your initial hearing.

Our Top Recommendations for Filing for a Child Arrangement Order

  • Have a strategy! – When you go to court, you should know why what you are requesting is the greatest option for your kid, and you should examine and eliminate alternatives. Instead of just stating that you want them to live with you, explain their connection with the other parent and why it is in their best interests for them to live with you. This might be as basic as an idea in your brain or as detailed as a formal, thorough parenting plan.
  • Collaborate with Cafcass – Ignore the horror stories; Cafcass is the powerful voice of your kid in court. Be upfront and sincere, and work with them rather than against them.
  • Focus on children at all times! Rather than saying “I want X, Y, and Z,” say “My child needs X, Y, and Z.”
  • Be amenable to Mediation Cheltenham regardless of how much you despise your ex; you and your ex are the greatest persons in the world to make decisions for your child.
  • Don’t be one of those individuals who detest their ex more than they love their child. Those who make choices regarding children have seen this a thousand times, and they don’t like it. Be present for your child without trying to “win” or “lose” against your ex.

What is the cost of a Child Arrangements Order?

In 2022, the current application price for a Child Arrangements Order is £232. If you have a modest income, you may qualify for legal assistance. Legal aid is government-funded assistance for individuals who cannot afford to pay their own legal expenses or access the judicial system. If you qualify, legal aid will pay the cost of your application, your MIAM, and any following mediation, as well as providing you with court counsel.

You may check online to determine if you qualify for legal help (opens in a new tab).

What happens after submitting a Child Arrangements Order application?

After you submit your application, it will be validated to ensure that it has been filled out accurately and to determine whether you have supplied sufficient information for your application to continue. If not, your application may be returned for correction or to allow you to supply more information, delaying the processing of your application; thus, it is essential that you get this right.

If it passes validation checks, a judge or, more likely, a legal advisor will review your application to determine which level of court (Magistrates or District Judge) will handle it, and they may give “directions” if they deem it necessary. Therefore, if you did not attend an MIAM, you may be required to do so before to your first hearing. They will schedule a First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment for the first hearing (FHDRA).

You will then get a letter informing you of the date, time, and place of your initial hearing. You will be referred to as the “Applicant” in court correspondence, while your adversary(s) will be referred to as the “Respondent(s)”.

On the same day that you receive your notice of hearing letter, the respondent should also receive a copy of your application form, the notice of hearing letter, and an acknowledgment form that allows them to inform the court whether or not they will oppose your application and provide information about any legal counsel they may choose to retain. They will also be provided with a copy of the C1A form, which will allow them to reply to any complaints you make in your application or to make their own charges of injury against you. A respondent will typically have 14 days to provide the court their response to your application; if they fail to do so, the court will proceed without this information.

Cafcass receives a copy of your application, any response to the application, and the notice of hearing (or Cafcass Cymru in Wales). Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service is the abbreviation for Cafcass. Cafcass will contact you and any potential responder prior to the initial hearing.

What does Cafcass do and who are they?

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) acts as the voice of your kid in family court hearings and makes suggestions to the court regarding what it could consider doing to promote your child’s wellbeing.

When you apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order, the court receives a copy of both your application and the respondent’s response. Cafcass will be present at your initial hearing and will give the court with a report including its recommendations, known as a “safeguarding letter.” The court is not required to adopt the Cafcass recommendations, but they have a significant impact on the court’s decision-making.

Before the initial hearing, Cafcass will contact you to inform you that they wish to speak with you, often providing a day and time when they will call you to discuss the application. If you cannot make that day and time, it is your obligation to contact them to reschedule; they are unlikely to contact you again and may instead inform the court that they were unable to ascertain your opinions. It is crucial that you communicate with Cafcass.

When you chat with them, they will ask you questions that will assist them in determining their suggestions. Their questioning will be centred on kid protection, and you will be asked things like “do you have any reservations about the other parent?” Before writing their report, they will also call the police and the local authorities to determine if either of you has a criminal past and if Social Services is familiar with your family. If they discover anything pertinent to the application, they will want to discuss it during the telephone interview.

Typically, you will get a copy of the Safeguarding Letter around one week before to your initial hearing. This allows you to view a summary of what everyone has said to Cafcass, what relevant information they have identified, and what their suggestions will be. You should go to court having thoroughly studied this report and understanding whether or not you agree with its recommendations. However, it is not unusual to not get the report before the initial hearing. This can be for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Cafcass was unable to prepare the report in time, in which case Cafcass may present their report verbally or your first hearing may be postponed until they can prepare it, or because one of you made allegations of harm against the other during the interview, and the report is being withheld until the court has reviewed the allegations.

Cafcass may not be engaged in your case beyond the initial hearing, depending on what is determined, but they will almost certainly be present during the initial hearing.

How long does a Child Arrangement Order take?

Applications for a Child Arrangements Order must be decided within a maximum of 26 weeks (6 months).

Internal judicial instruction stipulates that the first hearing must be place within four weeks (to provide proper notice to the respondent) and within six weeks of the application’s issuance. After this point, the timeline will vary based on the complexity of the case, the number and kind of needed hearings, and the court’s workload.

Any hearing involving Cafcass reports can be expected to take a 6-12 week lead time, and applicants for a Child Arrangements Order should generally expect to get the final order within 6 months.

Nonetheless, for circumstances that cannot wait that long, it is possible to request an urgent hearing, and the allocation and gatekeeping procedure may raise an application to an urgent application even if one was not requested.

The restricted grounds for an urgent hearing are the risk of death or damage to a child or the transfer of a child from the United Kingdom. An urgent hearing is typically held within 5-14 days of the date of issuance.

My ex-spouse has requested a Child Arrangement Order?

You may already be aware that your child’s other parent intends to file for a Child Arrangement Order on your child’s behalf, but if they do, you will likely learn about it when a mediator contacts you and requests that you attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

If the other parent asserts that an exemption applies, you may obtain just the material provided by the court when the application is filed.

In either case, the court will likely send you the following documents when it contacts you: –

  • A copy of the C100 application form, which was submitted to the court by the other parent.
  • A copy of the C1A form (if appropriate) – this form is used to give additional information when submitting an application for a Child Arrangement Order. Typically, this indicates that the other parent of your kid claims they or their child have experienced or are at danger of experiencing damage.
  • A blank C1A form to reply to the applicant’s accusations or to inform the court if you or your child have experienced or are at danger of suffering harm.
  • The Notice of Hearing – This letter informs you of what has been requested, by whom, the date, time, and place of your first hearing, as well as your case number.
  • Form C7 – Acknowledgment form that allows you to inform the court if you oppose the application, if you have a lawyer, if there is a danger of damage to you or your kid, and if you have any special needs, such as requiring an interpreter or wheelchair access.
  • Information Booklet CB7 – A pamphlet that explains the judicial system and what to anticipate in court.

You should finish the C7 Affirmation form and the C1A form if you are alleging a risk of harm, make copies for yourself, and return the remaining forms as directed.

If you can afford it, you should purchase a folder to save a copy of all the material you were provided and the paperwork you returned for your records and to give to your attorney.

Within two weeks after the date you got this information, Cafcass will call you to schedule a time and date for your telephone interview.

Aside from submitting the documents within 14 days, speaking with Cafcass, and reading their report afterwards, there is not much else you must do prior to the day of the initial hearing.

You should consider if you wish to represent yourself and consult with local attorneys about their fees to see whether you can afford or choose to pursue this option.

Check your eligibility for legal assistance (opens in a new tab) to discover whether you are eligible. Unless you plan and are content to oversee the proceedings alone, it is advisable to decide on the amount of help you desire now and put it in place as soon as possible to ensure that you always portray your side of the story in the best possible light at every step.

The court’s authority to issue whatever order it chooses

If you have not previously been informed, we will state it clearly: court should be a last resort.

The primary reason for this is the court’s authority to issue whatever order it deems appropriate.

This means that if you request an order for one purpose, the court may issue an order for something entirely different. It is not the case that you apply for something and either receive it or not.

It is crucial for parents to comprehend that there is one key factor for the court that is extremely vital.

It would be a grave error for any parent to go to court expecting to “win” because they were right or had been mistreated and their ex-spouse was “wrong” and should be punished.

The court does not care if your ex-spouse cheated on you, how badly they spoke to you, what their sister said about you, or how many new partners they have since the breakup.

Even if it privately agrees with you that your ex should pay maintenance, the court will not publicly frown on them if they haven’t paid for the last six months or force them to pay in the future.

In general, if it is safe to do so, the court will prioritise a meaningful relationship between your kid and both parents. This is codified in the opening sentence of the Children Act of 1989, which says…

Regardless of what you have requested, the court’s decision will be based purely on what it believes is the best outcome for your kid. The Children Act of 1989 specifies a number of considerations that the court must always keep in mind. These include: ​

  • the child’s discernible wants and feelings (evaluated in light of his age and level of comprehension);
  • his physical, psychological, and educational requirements;
  • the probable impact of any change in his circumstances on him;
  • his age, sex, history, and any other information the court deems pertinent;
  • whatever injury he has experienced or is at danger of experiencing;
  • the ability of each of his parents and any other person in respect to whom the court deems the matter pertinent to satisfy his requirements;
  • the extent of authorities available to the court in the proceedings at hand under this Act.

This list is known as the “Welfare Checklist,” and it guides the court’s decision-making about your child.

The court will also examine the so-called “no order principle,” which states that a court will not issue an order unless it believes that doing so will benefit the kid more than issuing no order at all.

If you go to court because you cannot agree with the other parent of your kid, you may leave with an outcome that none of you want.

If you apply for a court order stating that your child spends every other Sunday with the other parent, you may walk out of court with an order stating that your child now resides with the other parent and spends time with you every Wednesday afternoon, if the court deems it to be in the child’s best interests.

Contact a Family mediator in Cheltenham today on 0238 161 1051

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