Child Arrangement Orders

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

Child Arrangements Orders replaced Residence and Contact Orders on 22nd April 2014. The new order sets out who a child should live, spend time or otherwise have contact with.

Is this different to my existing residence or contact order?

No. The only change is a single order will be issued rather than a separate residence and contact order.

A Child Arrangement Order talks of parties in terms of ´the person with whom the child lives´ (i.e. the resident parent by another name) and the person who the child spends time with or otherwise has contact with (the non-resident or contact parent). When the order states the child lives with both parents (albeit in different places at different times) it's comparable to the old shared residence order (as before, the times spent at each parent's homes can be different).

The same features of the resident parent and non-resident parent exist eg a parent with whom the child lives (what was called the resident parent) can take children abroad for up to a month without the non-resident parent's or court's consent, while the non-resident parent (parent who the child spends time with or otherwise has contact) cannot.

Existing residence and contact orders will be treated as child arrangements orders. Bear in mind that if you were a resident parent (including a parent with shared residence) you'll be considered a person with whom the child lives (with the same status/rights as you had as a resident parent), while if you had a contact order, you'll be considered a person with whom the child spends time or otherwise has contact (again, with the same status/rights as existed before the new order was introduced.

How long does a Child Arrangement Order last?

Until the child is 16, or 18 in exceptional circumstances and where stated in the court order. If you move back in with your ex-partner, the order will cease after a period of 6 months of your living together.

Who can apply?

Any parent or guardian of the children can apply.

People who meet any of the following criteria also have the automatic right to apply for contact with your children.

  • any party to a marriage where the children were a part of their family
  • if they lived with the children for at least three years within the last five years, and their application to the Court is made within 3 months of the children no longer living with them
  • if there is a Child Arrangements Order in force, and they have the consent of the person with whom the children legally reside
  • if the children are in Local Authority care and they have the consent of the Local Authority
  • if they have the consent of each person who holds Parental Responsibility for the children

For people who don´t meet these criteria, when reaching the decision to grant permission, the Court will consider the merits of their application, their connection with your children and whether granting the order would cause harm to the children.

It is worth noting that your children could also ask the Court´s permission to make a Child Arrangements Order although the Court must be satisfied that they have sufficient understanding to make such a request.

How is a Child Arrangement Order enforced?

The enforcement measures previously available only for the enforcement of contact orders now apply to holders of child arrangements orders irrespective of whether the children live with them, spend time with them or otherwise have contact with them.

An application should be made to the Family Court who will list the case within 20 working days before the previously allocated judge (where possible). The court has a wide range of powers as sanctions for anyone failing to comply with a Child Arrangement Order.

Can I take my child abroad on holiday?

If there is a child arrangements order in force and you are named as a person with whom the child spends time or otherwise has contact, you cannot take your children abroad without the consent of the person with whom the child lives or the court.

If you are named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child lives, you can take your children abroad for up to a month without anyone else's consent. For longer periods, you need the consent of each holder of parental responsibility for the children, or a court order which grants the court's consent (via a specific issue order).

Can I change my child’s name?

When a child arrangements order is in force, you cannot change a child's name without the agreement of each holder of parental responsibility, or failing this, the court's consent (via a specific issue order).

Get in touch for open, honest legal advice on contact with your children.

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Emma Pearmaine - Director of Family Services - Leeds

Emma Pearmaine
Director of Family Services

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