What Are Child Arrangements Orders?

When a relationship breaks down, parents may struggle to agree on child care arrangements.

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By Claudia Price - 27th July 2021

A child arrangements order is a type of Court order that sets out where a child should live, how often a child should see the non-resident parent, and other care arrangements.

When a relationship breaks down, parents may struggle to agree on child care arrangements. There might be a dispute as to where a child should live, how often a child should see the non-resident parent, and who a child should have contact with.

If you cannot agree on any of these issues, then you can apply to court for a child arrangements order. You are asking the court to settle the dispute for you, and the court will make their decision based on what it feels is in the child’s best interests.

A child arrangements order regulates a child’s living arrangements and contact arrangements. It can be used to settle disputes such as:

  • With whom a child should live
  • The amount of time the child will spend with the non-resident parent
  • Where and how a child will spend time with the non-resident parent

If the child arrangements order says that you are allowed contact with a child, then the other parent must allow this.

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Orders regulating a child's living arrangements

When it comes to deciding where a child should live, the court may:

  • Name one person with whom the child is to live.
  • Name two people who live in the same household together, as persons with whom the child is to live. This might be a child's parent and step-parent.
  • Name two persons who live in different households, as persons with whom the child is to live. In this case, the order will specify the time that the child will live in each household. This allows a child to live with both parents in their respective households following separation. The division of the child's time between each household need not be equal.

When it comes to deciding contact with the non-resident parent, the court may order:

  • Direct and indirect contact arrangements. Direct contact arrangements involve the child having contact with a named person by staying with or visiting them. Indirect contact is where the contact takes place by letter, e-mail, voice over internet protocol (such as Skype), instant message or telephone.
  • Overnight and visiting contact arrangements. Direct contact arrangements can involve the child visiting the person named in the order for a few hours or staying with them overnight. Visiting contact arrangements are usually ordered where the application concerns a baby or young child. In these cases, the court may order shorter but more frequent periods of contact. If the application involves an older child, who is more able to care for themselves, overnight contact arrangements are likely to be ordered.
  • Supervised and unsupervised contact arrangements. If the court considers that there is a risk to the child's welfare through direct or indirect contact arrangements, it can order contact arrangements to be supervised by a third party.

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Does a child arrangements order let you take a child abroad?

If you are named as the resident parent in a child arrangements order, then you have the right to take the child abroad for up to one month without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court. Any longer than this and you’ll need the consent of the other parent, or you ask for the court’s permission by applying for a specific issue order.

If you are not named as the resident parent in a child arrangements order, then you cannot take a child abroad without the other parent’s permission. If the other parent doesn't consent, you can apply to court for a specific issue order.

When do child arrangements orders come to an end?

Child arrangements orders that regulate who a child should have contact with last until the child is 16 years old, or 18 years old in exceptional circumstances. The court can also stipulate the duration in the order.

Child arrangements orders that regulate who a child should live, or when the child is to live with any person, continue until the child is 18 years old.

The order will end automatically if a child's parents live together for a continuous period of more than six months after the order has been made.

Should you need any further advice do not hesitate to contact one of our team.

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