Child Arrangement Orders (contact and residence)
Our child care solicitors in Wakefield regularly negotiate arrangements for children through correspondence, face to face meetings and, where necessary, in Court proceedings. We also advise grandparents and other relatives where family arrangements break down.
We adopt a constructive and positive approach to Court proceedings about children, working hard to achieve the right solution for you.
In emergency situations we offer same day appointments whenever possible and regularly make emergency applications to Court to protect children.
Child Arrangement Progamme
In April 2014 the Child Arrangement Programme came into effect. This applies where a dispute arises between separated parents and/or families about arrangements concerning children. The Programme is designed to try and facilitate and encourage the resolution of disputes outside of the court system and, where not possible, swift resolution of the dispute through the court system . The Programme endeavours to avoid litigation where possible, with an emphasis of out of court dispute resolution.
All prospective applicants (there are some exemptions and we will discuss this with you) are required by the Court to engage in a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a mediator before any court proceedings are initiated.
Sometimes, parents are assisted in making decisions in relation to their children by meeting with a mediator. Mediation generally takes the form of one or more meetings between the parents and mediator to provide a safe, neutral forum for discussion. We will usually discuss with you making a referral to a mediation service.
There are a number of advantages to an early referral to mediation, in particular:
- this can be a quicker, cheaper and less formal process than applying to court
- agreements reached between parents are generally more flexible than court orders
Child Arrangement Orders (formerly Residence and Contact Orders)
The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces Child Arrangement Orders, replacing residence and contact orders. A Child Arrangement Order means an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:
- With whom a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact;
- When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Orders which the Court can make
Child Arrangement Orders (formerly Residence and Contact orders)
Child Arrangement orders determine where a child lives.
Where a Child Arrangement order is in force the parent with whom the child lives may remove the child from the jurisdiction (i.e. England and Wales) for up to four weeks without the consent of the other parent.
The surname of a child subject to a Child Arrangement order stipulating where the child lives cannot be changed without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility.
Child Arrangement orders require the parent with whom the child lives to make the child available to spend time with other parent.
When a child arrangement order is made, a Warning Notice is attached to it. This means that if the parent with whom the child lives does not make the child available to spend time with the other parent, or the other parent does not spend time with the child as ordered, they can be fined or sent to prison, or ordered to do unpaid work, or ordered to repay out-of-pocket expenses caused by the missed contact.
Parental responsibility order
“Parental responsibility” is the legal term for the rights and responsibilities which you expect to have as a parent towards your child. This includes the right to be consulted and informed about educational and religious upbringing and medical treatment and to consent to a change of name.
All mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children.
Married fathers automatically have parental responsibility.
Unmarried fathers automatically have parental responsibility if they are named on their child’s birth certificate and the child was born after 01 December 2003.
Any carer who has a child arrangement order ordering that a child lives with them also has parental responsibility for that child.
Gaining parental responsibility
If you do not have parental responsibility you can acquire this
- through entering into a parental responsibility agreement (which requires the Mother’s consent; or
- through a Court order
Specific issue orders/Prohibited steps orders
These are orders requiring someone to do, or not do something which they could otherwise do in the exercise of their parental responsibility.
Criteria for the Court to consider
In making a child arrangement order, specific issue or prohibited steps order the Court has to consider various criteria set down by law.
The paramount consideration for the Court is the welfare of the child.
Delay is to be presumed to be to the child’s detriment unless there is a reason for it (for example, to allow time for the preparation of a report).
The Court then has to consider a list of factors sometimes referred to as the “welfare checklist”. These are:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child (in the light of their ageand understanding)
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex and background and any particular characteristics which the child has.
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering (including emotional harm)
- How capable each of the child’s parents (and other relevant adults) is of meeting the child’s needs
There is also a principle that the Court should not make an order unless making an order is better for the child than not making an order. For this reason, if matters between the parents are agreed the Court may record the agreement rather than formalising it in an order.
Funding your case
Legal aid is only available to make an application for a child arrangement order, specific issue, prohibited steps or parental responsibility orders in limited circumstances. Eligibility is based on both your financial position and the merits of your case. The “scope” of legal aid is limited, in general terms, to cases where there has been recent domestic violence and evidence of this is available; cases where there are child protection issues and evidence of this is available, and “exceptional” cases, which have been narrowly defined. If you believe you may be eligible for legal aid, please ask us about this. We can undertake a free Legal Aid assessment with you.
Costs and Fixed Fees
We know that the end of a relationship can often bring about financial strain, with this in mind, we have developed a number of fixed fee packages which provide certainty about cost and a cost effective way of obtaining legal advice.
We have various Fixed Fee packages available. You may wish to instruct us to prepare your application to court for you to issue yourself, prepare your application and represent you in subsequent proceedings, provide you with advice on mediation and make a referral to mediation.
For further information on our Fixed Fee Packages see our Family Fees and Funding Page.
Contact our Contact and residence Solicitors in Wakefield on 01924 332395.