A Child Arrangements Order determines where a child or children should live and what time they should spend with the parent who they do not live with.
What do you need to know if an application to the court is made?
An application should only be made if it has not been possible to agreement the arrangements for your child with the other parent. The court will not consider any application, unless urgent, if the parents have not tried mediation or another dispute resolution.
The Court’s starting point is that it is usually in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both of their parents. What that relationship is has to be determined in each individual case. The Court has to take in to account something called the Welfare Checklist.
The Welfare Checklist is as follows:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child if circumstances are changed as a result of the Court’s decision
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristic that might be relevant to the Court’s decision
- Any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering
- Capability of the child’s parents to meet the child’s needs
The Court will only order contact that it believes is safe for both the child and their parent.
The Court considers the matter from the viewpoint of the child, not the parents.
Before the first court hearing, CAFCASS will have been asked to undertake safeguarding checks. This means they will check with social services and the police what is known about each parent and then they will speak to each to gain their views on the application.
The Court will then ask for any other relevant information that it feels is required to make a determination for the arrangements for the child. This can be hair strand tests for drugs or alcohol; more evidence on a particular topic i.e. domestic abuse; or expert evidence, usually from CAFCASS.
It is only once the Court is satisfied that it has all the appropriate information that a final decision can be made. It usually takes between 9 to 12 months for a final determination to be made. During the process, the parents will be encouraged to reach an agreement about the arrangements for their children if at all possible.
For more information on Child Arrangements Orders or discuss the options available to you, contact our Family Team:
Exeter 01392 285000 Cullompton 01884 33818