The end of a relationship can be a difficult time for everybody involved, and that includes the children of the family. However, it’s much easier to make arrangements amicably between both parents than it is to apply to the court for a child arrangement order.
Unfortunately, it’s a common problem that when parents separate, they stop communicating. This is where family mediation can really help everybody involved come to the right arrangements for everybody concerned. Most children say that they prefer to see both of their parents after a separation, and in most cases, the courts agree that it’s in their best interests to spend time with both parents. Generally, this is the starting point for any arrangements that are made by the courts, too.
What happens if you can’t agree the arrangements for the children amicably?
This is where we can help.
Our dedicated and experienced family lawyers are here to help you through the legal processes involved. This involves making any necessary applications to the family court for a child arrangement order setting out where the children should live with and how they divide their time between parents.
In most cases before a court application can be made, the court will insist that the person making the application is referred to a professional family mediator. This is so that mediation can be explored as an option before any contentious proceedings are started. A mediator also needs to sign the form before an application to the court can be made.
What happens when an application for a child arrangement order is made?
In most cases, if an application is made to the court for a child arrangement order, there won’t be a hearing for around six weeks – unless there is a very urgent issue that needs dealing with. This is to allow time for safeguarding checks to be carried out in the background.
The first court hearing for a child arrangement order
At the first court hearing, if there are no safeguarding issues, the parents will meet with a CAFCASS officer before going into the court room, to see whether they can agree a way forward for themselves and the children. If they can agree at this stage, the court will either then make a record of the agreement reached or make a court order in the agreed terms.
If there are any safeguarding issues, the court may need further evidence before making a decision (or before the parties agree) and in this case, the court will ask for more information by a certain date.
If there’s still no agreement between the parents the court will give directions about what should happen next. Usually, the court will ask everyone involved to file a statement, and/or a CAFCASS officer or social services will be asked to prepare a report for the court (this is often referred to as a section 7 report or child analysis report). There will then be another court date set, usually for further directions.
The second hearing
It’s common for an agreement to be reached at or before a second child arrangement order hearing. If that’s not possible, the matter will be set down for a full hearing where the court will decide what arrangements should be in place.
Some cases can become complex if there are safeguarding issues, which means that they have to take longer to resolve. As well as child arrangement orders the family courts will deal with other more complex issues such as;
- whether a child’s name should be changed,
- whether a child should be allowed to move to another country,
- whether a child should have medical treatment or not,
and other similar issues. The family court can also deal with parental responsibility applications and any issues that the parents cannot agree on.
If you have any issues relating to the arrangements for children following a separation, or any other family matters, contact our experience family lawyers for a friendly consultation.