Reaching an agreement about where your child lives or how often they spend time with a parent can be a difficult and stressful process. Such decisions often follow a separation or a change in circumstances and it is more important than ever to establish stability for a child. Many parents are able to agree matters between themselves, however this is not always possible.
For those who struggle to agree arrangements, emotions often run high and seeking early advice as to options available for you and your child is invaluable.
Child Arrangements Orders
A Child Arrangements Order regulates who a child lives with, spends time with or otherwise has contact with, and how often and for how long that might be. It is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, as every family is different.
If you are able to reach an agreement yourselves, via solicitors or in mediation, a solicitor can prepare a consent order that reflects the agreement you have reached and this can be filed at court. Ultimately, it is up to the court whether a consent order is approved and the court will have to be satisfied that the
arrangement is in your child’s best interests. The court will also need to be satisfied that making an order would be better than if there were no order at all.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, it is possible to ask the court to become involved. This is usually seen as a last resort and unless you are exempt, you will be required to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before any application to court is made.
You do not need an order setting out the arrangements for your child, but many parents find that it affords much needed structure, particularly where communication is an issue.
Varying or Enforcing an Order
If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place but that order is no longer suitable, perhaps because yours or your child’s circumstances have changed, you may be able to agree changes to the order with the other parent. It may be sensible to formally vary your order by consent or by making an application to the court. Without a court order, there is no independent body of authority to enforce arrangements between you. One of the benefits, therefore, of having an order is that if a parent has breached the order, for example, by refusing to allow a child to see the other parent, whilst it is still difficult, it is at least possible to seek the court’s assistance in enforcing the terms of the order.
For more information or advice on child arrangement, please contact Rebecca at email@example.com.
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