How do Child
Arrangement Orders Work?

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When parents separate or divorce, they need to make arrangements for their children’s care and living arrangements. These arrangements are known as “child arrangements.” The term “child arrangements” encompasses both where the child lives and how much time they spend with each parent.

Under UK law, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration when making child arrangements. The court will take into account a range of factors when making decisions about child arrangements, including:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings (taking into account their age and level of understanding)
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on the child of any changes in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics
  • The capacity of each parent to meet the child’s needs
  • Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • The capability of each parent to meet the child’s needs

We will always encourage you and your ex spouse try to make child arrangements between yourselves, without involving the courts. If you can’t agree on arrangements, you can use a mediator to help them reach an agreement, or apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO).

A Child Arrangements Order sets out the living arrangements for the child, and can specify the amount of time the child will spend with each parent. A Child Arrangements Order can be made in favour of one parent or both parents, and can include provisions for other family members, such as grandparents, to have contact with the child.

The Four Stages of Getting a Child Arrangement Order

Submitting the Application for a Child Arrangement Order

To get a Child Arrangement Order, a parent or legal guardian must first submit an application to the court. The application will include details about the child and their current living arrangements, as well as the proposed arrangements.

The co-parent’s acknowledgement

Once the application has been submitted, the other parent or legal guardian will be sent a copy and given the opportunity to respond. They can either agree to the proposed arrangements or raise objections. If they agree, the court can make the Child Arrangement Order without a hearing. If they object, the case will proceed to the next stage.

Safeguarding checks

Before making a Child Arrangement Order, the court will carry out safeguarding checks to ensure that the proposed arrangements are safe and in the best interests of the child. This may involve contacting social services or other relevant authorities to gather information about the child and their living situation.

Initial hearing

If the other parent or legal guardian objects to the proposed arrangements, or if the safeguarding checks reveal concerns about the child’s safety or welfare, the case will proceed to an initial hearing. At this hearing, the court will consider the evidence presented and make an interim order setting out the child’s living arrangements while the case is ongoing. The court may also order further assessments or investigations to gather more information before making a final decision.

It’s worth noting that the exact process may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, and that the court will always make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. If you have any further questions about the process of getting a Child Arrangement Order, it’s best to seek legal advice from a solicitor.

It’s worth noting that child arrangements are not set in stone, and can be changed if circumstances change. For example, if one parent wants to move away or if the child’s needs change over time, it may be necessary to revisit the child arrangements and make adjustments.