Child Arrangements Orders
If parents are divorced or separated there are often many issues which need to be settled. One of the most difficult is making arrangements for a child after the separation. If there is a dispute about who the child is to live with or how much time they should spend with each carer then either parent may apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. These orders are designed to directly replace Residence Orders and Contact Orders.
Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in 2014 in response to concerns that many applications under the old scheme were being made unnecessarily. It was felt that applications were being made for the sake of the formality that they brought to the process, even in instances where there was no actual dispute between the parents.
Residence and Contact Orders were formally abolished on 22 April 2014 and can no longer be issued. Any orders already granted under the old scheme remain in force and parents who have these orders in place do not need to reapply under the new scheme.
The new Child Arrangements Orders deal specifically with two issues: Firstly, who a child is to live with or spend time with; Secondly, when a child is to live with or spend time with a person.
In this respect Child Arrangements Orders are remarkably similar to the Residence and Contact Orders which they were brought in to replace. It is difficult to see how this change has clarified matters or helped to prevent unnecessary applications. Some people find the changes confusing and it is important for parents to seek appropriate legal advice if they are unsure.
Any situation that may require a Child Arrangements Order is naturally very delicate and stressful for all parties. It is therefore compulsory, in most instances, for anyone who wants to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order to first go to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (Miam).
A MiaM is a meeting with a trained mediator who will help you to work out if it is possible to resolve the dispute without having to go to court. Mediators do not take sides and will not tell either party what to do. Their job is to help people to communicate with each other and to provide a calm and open environment in order to offer the best chance of finding an acceptable solution. Both parents will normally have to attend a MAIM but they do not have to attend at the same time if they do not wish to.
Mediation is an alternative to the more rigid legal mechanism of the court system and can save a lot of the time and expense normally incurred. It is particularly suitable for situations involving children and vulnerable people since it focuses on finding mutually acceptable solutions rather than being based on conflict. For more information on MAIMs and mediation please visit our Help Centre at the top of the page.
Just Divorce Mediation offer a professional, confidential service across the Midlands and the North of England. If you would like further advice tailored to your situation, or you would like to find out how we can help you please call us on 01617 381 041. You can also get in contact using our online form by following the link on the right and selecting the appropriate option.