We're all going on a summer holiday?

If you and your partner/other person with parental responsibility of your child cannot agree on when you will each spend time with your child over the school summer holidays or your partner/other person with parental responsibility of your child is preventing you from seeing your child, you may be entitled to obtain a Child Arrangement Order to regulate these arrangements.

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

Child Arrangement Orders are found under the s.8 of the Children Act 1989 and are comprised of two different Orders, a spend time with or live with Order. These Orders regulate who a child can live with, spend time with, or otherwise have contact with.

In this instance, the most suitable Order would be a spend time with order, a Child Arrangement Order that regulates a child’s contact arrangements and provides for when a child is able to spend time with or contact a named individual. ‘Spending time with’ can include visiting, overnight contact arrangements, contact via the Internet and phone, etc.  These Orders are issued by the Court.

How to obtain a Child Arrangement Order?

Prior to applying for a Child Arrangement Order, you must first attend mediation, a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Mediation is required to encourage both parties to collaboratively resolve the issue and come to an agreement so that the issue does not need to be dealt with by the Court. This is not required where there is evidence of domestic violence.

If mediation is unsuccessful, you can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangement Order – this can be done online or by post. A parent, guardian or an individual with parental responsibility of the child can apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order.

Once an application has been sent, the Court will schedule a further meeting (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment) in order to resolve the conflict and settle the arrangements as amicably and efficiently as possible. In this meeting, a judge and representative from the organisation CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will assist in the resolution of the conflict between the parties and to devise an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the Court will issue an order which sets out what has been agreed.

If the issue is not resolved during this first meeting, the Court will then decide whether to schedule an additional meeting (Dispute Resolution Appointment) or to organise a final hearing. Where an additional meeting is arranged, the Court will attempt to resolve the issue by hearing evidence from both parties. If an agreement is reached at this stage, the Court will issue an order which outlines the conclusions devised in the meeting. However, where no final agreement is reached, the Court will schedule a final hearing.

Where a final hearing is organised, a judge will consider all evidence in dispute and decide as to whether a Child Arrangement Order should be granted. Where the decision to grant a Child Arrangement Order is made, the content of the Order will also be outlined. The Court will only make an Order where the child is under the age of 18 and it is satisfied that it is better for the child to grant an Order than not to. Further, if the court decides to make a Child Arrangement Order, it will also contain information outlining the consequences of failing to comply with the content of the Order (a warning notice).

The Court can vary or discharge a Child Arrangement Order where circumstances change or where a change to the Order is within the child’s interests.

What happens if the Child Arrangement Order is not complied with?

Where a Child Arrangement Order is issued and the identified individual does not comply with the content of the Order, an application must be made to the Court to make it aware of the breach. Where an application is made and the Court is satisfied that there has been a breach, it will issue an Enforcement Order to deal with the breach.  The Enforcement Order may include, a referral for further mediation, the Child Arrangement Order may be varied or where relevant, an order for compensation may be awarded for the financial loss suffered due to the breach, the identified individual may be imprisoned or a fine may be imposed. The consequences of non-compliance are often stated in the warning notice issued with the Child Arrangement Order.

If you wish to book in for an initial consultation to discuss your situation our family solicitors are based in both Wolverhampton and Cradley Heath and serve clients across the West Midlands. For all new enquiries, please call 01902 328 355 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will respond.