Child Arrangements Orders: Everything You Need to Know

Having a solicitor by your side from the start of a Child Arrangement Order case gives you the best chance of a positive outcome.

In the event an agreement cannot be reached about who a child lives with or spends time with, the Court can make an order known as a Child Arrangements Order. The Court will always have the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration. This guide aims to demystify Child Arrangements Orders, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of their purpose, process, and the essential role of expert legal assistance.


“Supporting clients through Child Arrangement Orders since its novation in March 2018”

Understanding Child Arrangement Orders

At the core of children law in the UK, Child Arrangement Orders are designed to resolve disputes regarding where a child will live and the nature and extent of contact with each parent. Beyond living arrangements, these orders touch on various aspects of a child’s life, including education, health, and emotional well-being, ensuring that the child’s best interests are paramount in any decision.

Child Arrangements Orders replaced the previous distinctions between Residence Orders and Contact Orders under the Children Act 1989, creating a unified approach that focuses on the child’s needs. There is an emphasis on the importance of maintaining a child’s relationships with both parents and other key family members, fostering a sense of security and continuity in their upbringing.

Who Can Apply for a Child Arrangements Order?

The eligibility to apply for a Child Arrangements Order is notably broad, ensuring that anyone with a significant presence in a child’s life can seek legal recognition of their role. This inclusivity extends beyond biological parents to encompass guardians, step-parents, and others who have formed a substantial connection with the child.

The application process starts with obtaining permission from the court, especially for those not automatically entitled, such as distant relatives or close family friends. This step ensures that applications are made with the child’s best interests in mind, filtering out those without a substantial claim to involvement in the child’s life.

Legal Process and Court Proceedings

The journey to securing a Child Arrangements Order begins with an application to the family courts. This application sets in motion a series of legal proceedings aimed at reaching an amicable and child-centred resolution. Key to this process is the requirement for most applicants to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before proceeding to court, promoting the resolution of disputes through dialogue and mutual agreement whenever possible.

Mediation serves as a less confrontational alternative to court proceedings, offering a space for parents to negotiate the terms of their child’s upbringing collaboratively. However, in cases where mediation is unsuccessful or inappropriate, such as situations involving domestic abuse, the case advances to the Family Court. Here, a judge will consider all evidence, including reports from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and the child’s expressed wishes, to determine the order that best serves the child’s interests.

Factors Considered by the Court in Child Arrangements Cases

When deliberating in these cases, the court’s primary consideration is the welfare of the child, guided by the welfare checklist outlined in the Children Act 1989. This includes assessing the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs; the likely effect on them of any change in circumstances; the child’s age, sex, background, and any characteristics the court considers relevant; any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering; and the capability of each parent (or other relevant person) in meeting the child’s needs.

This comprehensive approach ensures that the court’s decisions are tailored to the unique circumstances of each case, prioritising the child’s well-being above all else. It underscores the legal system’s dedication to safeguarding children’s interests, recognising that each child’s needs and relationships are distinct and deserving of careful consideration.

Types of Child Arrangements Orders

Child Arrangements Orders can specify various aspects of a child’s care and upbringing, ranging from whom the child will live with to the arrangements for spending time with the non-residential parent. These orders are flexible and can be tailored to fit the needs of the child and the specifics of the family situation.

Moreover, the court can issue Specific Issue Orders or Prohibited Steps Orders as part of or alongside Child Arrangements Orders to address particular matters or prevent certain actions. For example, a Specific Issue Order might determine which school the child should attend, while a Prohibited Steps Order could restrict a parent from taking the child abroad without consent.

Rights and Responsibilities of Parents under a Child Arrangements Order

Parents and guardians under a Child Arrangement Order have defined rights and responsibilities, central to which is the duty to act in the child’s best interests at all times. This includes adhering to the terms of the order, facilitating contact with the other parent as outlined, and making decisions that support the child’s welfare and development.

One of the key features of Child Arrangements Orders is their flexibility; they can be varied or enforced through legal channels if circumstances change significantly or if one party fails to comply with the terms. This adaptability ensures that the order remains relevant and beneficial to the child’s needs over time, reflecting the dynamic nature of family life.

Breach and Enforcement of Child Arrangements Orders in the UK

Breaching a Child Arrangements Order is a serious matter, and the courts have a range of powers to enforce compliance. This can include revising the order to better suit the child’s needs, mandating attendance at a parenting program, or, in extreme cases, imposing fines or custodial sentences. The primary aim of enforcement is not to punish but to ensure compliance with the order for the child’s benefit.

The enforcement process typically begins with an application to the court, highlighting the breach and seeking a resolution. The court will then examine the circumstances, considering the reasons for the breach and its impact on the child, before deciding on the appropriate course of action.

Legal Aid and Financial Considerations for Child Arrangements Orders

The financial aspects of pursuing a Child Arrangement Order can be daunting, with costs potentially including court fees, legal representation, and associated expenses. However, legal aid may be available for eligible individuals, particularly in cases involving evidence of domestic abuse or child abuse. Understanding the criteria for legal aid and exploring all options for financial assistance is crucial for those concerned about the costs of legal action.

How National Legal Service Solicitors Can Help with Child Arrangements Orders

At National Legal Service, we specialise in guiding families through the complexities of Child Arrangements Orders, offering expert legal advice and compassionate support. Our experienced solicitors are adept at navigating the intricacies of family law, committed to achieving outcomes that serve the best interests of the child. Whether you’re applying for an order, seeking to vary existing arrangements, or facing enforcement issues, our team is here to assist you every step of the way.

Contact Us for Expert Legal Advice on Child Arrangements Orders in the UK

Embarking on the process of obtaining a Child Arrangement Order can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it alone. The team at National Legal Service is dedicated to providing you with the expertise and support you need to secure the best possible outcome for your child. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today. Let us be your partner in navigating this challenging journey, ensuring a brighter future for your child.


Looking to learn more? Read our complete guide to Child Arrangement Agreements Orders here

Request Callback

We know that no two cases are ever the same and we are dedicated to guiding you through the legal process with tailored solutions which work for you. For free initial legal advice please fill out the form below.
Main Form