A large part of a divorce or separation for those couples with children is to try and make the process as amicable as possible and to agree on the new arrangements moving forward.
Child arrangements can be an informal agreement, although it certainly helps to write it down. You’ll only need to go to court if you cannot agree.
In this instalment of Stowe support, we asked Rachel Fisher, Solicitor at our Bristol office to look at how to apply for a child arrangements order.
“A child arrangements order will state where a child will live, who they will spend time with and how often. For example, they may spend weeknights in the family home and weekends with their mother/father.
Before you make an application for a child arrangements order, you should try to agree on the arrangements with the other party.
You can consider preparing a parenting plan; a written statement that both parents sign up to establish the ground rules of shared parenting. You can see a sample template here.
Mediation can also assist parents in reaching an agreement in relation to arrangements for their children.
If an agreement cannot be reached, then it will be necessary to issue an application for a child arrangement order. I would strongly recommend that you undertake this process with professional legal advice.
Making an application
You will need to obtain a signed MIAM form before you are able to make an application for a child arrangements order.
An application for a child arrangements order is made on a C100 form. This sets out the details of the children and the parties involved. You will be asked to state which orders you are seeking and why.
You will also need to complete a C1A form if you are alleging harm and domestic violence.
Once you have completed the C100 application, you will need to send it to the court in triplicate along with the court fee which is currently £215, unless you are eligible for a fee exemption.
The application should be sent to the nearest court to where the children concerned in the application live.
Once the court receives your application, it will set a date for everyone involved in the application to have a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA).
The court will send a copy of the application to the other party and they must complete an acknowledgement form and return it to the court to confirm that they have seen the papers.
The order can state:
- Who the children live with
- Where they live
- When and how the children will see both parents
You will have to stick to whatever the court decides, even if you don’t agree with it, unless you and your ex-partner both agree to changes.
I always advise, where possible, to try and stay out of court as it is expensive, time-consuming and upsetting for the whole family.
And finally, one key message that I must give out is that in children disputes, it is important to take a long-term view and try to not get caught up in more trivial or day to day nuisance issues.”