When parents separate, in can be a difficult time for the whole family. Very often, when children are involved, it is not always the case that both parties can agree on residence and contact issues. The legal system is built around ensuring that their welfare comes first and this includes taking in to account their wishes and needs. Very often, people are uncertain as to whether or not they have parental responsibility for their child as it is automatically often assumed that the Mother only has parental responsibilities. This is not always the case.
A Child Arrangements Order is an application to the Court where both parties can agree on child contact, access, residence and other related matters. The application attracts a fee which is usually payable directly to the Court. It involves attending Court for a number of Hearings and usually involves CAFCASS. The latter are usually involved to prepare reports on what should happen next, what contact arrangements should exist and very often prepare reports upon being directed to do so by the Court.
It is always better for all parties to agree arrangements for a child between themselves on a voluntary basis rather than a Court imposed agreement. You should always try and write a letter to the other parent before you consider whether or not to issue proceedings in the Court. It is important that children have a safe and stable environment to live in and both parties can have shared parenting as well. You can negotiate the type of arrangement that suits you and your family, taking in to account all views. Shared parenting generally works better when children are able to move on a regular basis between both parent's homes without disruption or feeling settled. It is important that your child contact arrangements are put in to writing and this can be without assistance of the Court. You can also apply for a Specific Issue Order if you have something particular that you want the Court to rule upon. In addition to this, you can also apply for a Prohibition Order which prevents the other party from doing something if it is not in the best interest of the child.
It is also important to obtain a MIAM Certificate before you issue proceedings for a Child Arrangements Order. There are certain exemptions applicable but generally, if you do not obtain a certificate, then you will not be able to submit your proceedings to the Court.
We can guide you on the process that you will need to utilise, how long it may take and also provide you with assistance on the terms of any such Orders that you may seek. We also may encourage you to attend Court to represent yourself in order to put your story forward in the best possible way. Alternatively, you always have the option of instructing a Barrister under the public access scheme.