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  • What is a Child Arrangements Order?

    Child arrangements orders outline the child’s living arrangements, who a child should have contact with or spend time with, and when a child should have contact with each parent.  

    As the circumstances for every family are different, child arrangements orders are unique to the family. 

    A child arrangements order is usually made when the child’s contact and residency cannot be agreed upon through mediation or negotiation between two parents. 

  • Can a Child Arrangements Order be changed?

    child arrangements orders can be changed as parents’ circumstances change with time, and a child’s needs change as they get older. 

    There are various reasons why you might need to change the child arrangements order, for example: 

    • Your employment has changed, and you cannot fulfil your contact in the way the order sets out
    • You are moving house  
    • The child’s needs have changed.

    If you wish to change a child arrangements order, you need to see if the other party agrees. If you cannot decide between yourselves, consider whether mediation is appropriate. If you still cannot agree, seek legal advice and consider making an application to the court. 

    If the court has made an order, you must do what the order says, even if you disagree.

    If you wish to change the order, you should consider applying to vary or discharge the existing court order. 

  • Who can apply for a variation order in family court?

    Anyone with parental responsibility can apply to vary an existing child arrangements order. 

    This can include: 

    • A parent, guardian or special guardian. 

    • A step-parent or another person who has parental responsibility for the child by way of a parental responsibility order or agreement.

    • Anyone who has a ‘live with’ child arrangements order in their favour already.

    • Any person who has parental responsibility by being named in a child arrangements order for the child to have contact/spend time with them. 

    The following other people can also apply:

    • Someone who has the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for the child or anyone who has a ‘live with’ order in their favour.

    • A father married to, or in a civil partnership with, the mother but not named on the birth certificate of the child(ren)

    • If the child is in local authority care, a person who has the authority’s consent. 

    • A foster parent or other relative, if the child has lived with them for one year immediately before making the application.  

    • Anyone who the child has lived with for three years.

  • What will the court consider when reviewing an application to vary a child arrangements order?

    The court asked to review or change a child arrangements order must pay heed to the statutory welfare checklist contained in section 1(3) Children Act 1989. 

    Above all, the children’s welfare is the court’s main consideration. 

    When the court considers whether or not to make one or more orders under the Children Act, they must consider that such action is better for the child than making no order.  

    Under the Children Act,  any delay in determining the issue is deemed detrimental to the child’s welfare. 

    Nonetheless, the court will dedicate the appropriate time and resources to the case to guarantee it is managed appropriately. 

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What happens if one party breaches a Child Arrangements Order?

In some circumstances, the other parent may decide not to abide by the arrangements set out in the order, and they may continue to do so until you take action. 

In this case, it’s important to quickly seek expert legal advice from a solicitor before you apply to the court to enforce the order. 

During the first hearing, the court will look at the reasons for non-compliance and see whether CAFCASS needs to take action.

Do I need to seek expert advice from a solicitor before changing a Child Arrangements Order?

Due to child arrangements orders being orders of the court, you must abide by them, failure to do so could mean serious consequences. 

Parents often underestimate the emotional trauma and legal complexities of entering a family court process, so specialist solicitors with experience, understanding and empathy are a vital asset.

Also, specialist solicitors will be able to view your case objectively and highlight flaws at an early stage to help achieve the best outcome for your children. 

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