A child arrangements order is a legally binding court order to ensure the welfare of a child with divorcing or separated parents who cannot agree on child arrangements. It is an order that deems whom the child will live with and how they will meet and interact with each parent.

Let’s learn all there is to know about a child arrangements order in the UK!

What Does a Child Arrangements Order Achieve?

A child arrangements order legally defines which part the child will live with and whom they will spend their time with. It defines who will have the responsibility to care for the child and when. This order essentially replaces the older residence and contact orders in child arrangements in the UK. However, parents with these older orders will not have to re-apply for a child arrangements order.

A child arrangements order will essentially define how often and when the child will see either parent. For instance, it might state the child will live with both parents on a shared basis or spend a few weekends with one parent and live for the remainder of the days with others. It might cover arrangements for holidays and include the frequency of phone calls, letters, cards, etc.

Who Can Apply for This Order?

Parents of the child have an automatic right to apply for a child arrangements order in the UK. Step-parents, including those who are in a civil partnership, can also apply for this order. Moreover, a local authority foster parent, a close relative (sister, brother, uncle, aunt, or grandparent) with whom the child has lived for over one year, and any individual with whom the child has lived for at least 3 years can also apply for a child arrangements order.

Additionally, people who don’t have parental responsibility for the child can take the court’s leave to apply for this order. The court will consider the applicant’s relationship with the child and if their application will disrupt the child’s life to the point of harm to determine whether it should grant the leave or not.

 When Should You Apply for This Order?

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent on the care of your child, you should apply for this order. However, before the application, try to reach an agreement through mediation. The court might also require you to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting to establish if you might be able to agree on the terms with the other parent through mediation.

When Does a Child Arrangements Order Cease to Be Legally Binding?

This order is legally binding till the child turns 16 or 18 under exceptional circumstances. Moreover, if either parent breaches the order or any of its terms, they will be held in contempt of court and face fines, community service, or even prison.

Can You Change the Order?

You can apply to the court to alter the order if it no longer suits your child’s best interests. Make sure the application is to alter the order instead of breaching it, as that can lead you to be held in contempt of court, leading to serious consequences.

When applying for a child arrangements order in the UK, it’s best to seek the help of a qualified child custody attorney. They can also guide you toward mediation before the application process to ensure there’s no animosity between you and the child’s other parent, which will ultimately benefit your child.