Child Arrangement Order FAQ
Our Family and Child Law Solicitors answer common questions about Child Arrangement Orders (formerly known as a Residence Order or a Contact Order).
- What is a Child Arrangement Order?
- How Long Does a Child Arrangement Order Last?
- Who Can Apply for a Child Arrangement Order?
- How is a Child Arrangement Order Enforced?
- Can I Take My Child Abroad on Holiday?
- Can I Change My Child’s Name?
- How is a Child Arrangement Order Different from a Residence or Contact Order?
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A Child Arrangement Order is a Court Order which sets out who a child should live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with. This can include, but isn’t limited to:
- Supervised contact
- Overnight contact
- Indirect contract through cards or letters
How Long Does a Child Arrangement Order Last?
Until the child is 16, or 18 in exceptional circumstances unless otherwise ordered by the Court. 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 for a Child Arrangement Order?
Any of the following can apply:
- Parent of the child
- Guardian of the child
A person can also apply for a Child Arrangement Order 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
- A Child Arrangement Order is in force, and the person wishing to make the application has the consent of the person the children are legally living with at the moment.
- The children are in Local Authority care and the person wishing to make the application has the consent of the Local Authority
- They have the consent of each person who holds Parental Responsibility for the children.
For people who don't meet these criteria, the Court will need to grant permission for their application to be considered. When reaching the decision to grant permission, the Court will consider the chances of the application succeeding, their connection with your children and whether granting the Order would cause the children harm.
It’s worth noting that children could also ask the Court´s permission to make a Child Arrangement Order, although the Court must be satisfied that the child wishing to make the application has sufficient understanding to make this request.
How is a Child Arrangement Order Enforced?
Anyone who is named as a party within a Court Order may make a further application to the Court to have it enforced. This application is sought when another party doesn’t comply with the Court Order and can be made irrespective of whether the child lives 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 and can impose sanctions on anyone who doesn’t comply with a Child Arrangement Order. Additionally, the Court can put measures in place to ensure that parties attend the upcoming hearing if they haven’t been to previous hearings.
Can I Take My Child Abroad on Holiday?
If a Child Arrangement Order is in force and you’re named as a person the child spends time or otherwise has contact with, you can’t take them abroad without the consent of the person with whom the child currently lives. If you can’t get this, you’ll need to make an application to the Court, which should be marked as urgent should there be a time restriction.
If you’re named in a Child Arrangement Order as a person the child lives with, 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 through a Specific Issue Order.
Can I Change My Child’s Name?
When a Child Arrangement Order is in force, you cannot change a child's name without the agreement of each person who has Parental Responsibility for the child, or failing this, the Court's consent through a Specific Issue Order.
How is a Child Arrangement Order Different from a Residence or Contact Order?
Previously, people would apply for a Residence Order for the child to live with them, and a Contact Order if they sought to have contact with the child. However, they’re now both referred to as Child Arrangement Orders, which cover who the child should live with and what contact should they have.
The same application will be made for the child to live with you and for contact, i.e. a Child Arrangement Order for the child to live with you, or a Child Arrangement Order to have contact with the child. However, what will differ is the information inputted into the application regarding what you seek from the Court. When the Child Arrangement Order states the child lives with both parents (although this will be 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 - i.e. a parent the child lives with (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 with) cannot.
Existing Residence and Contact Orders will be treated as Child Arrangement 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 that you had as a resident parent).
However, if you had a Contact Order, you'll be considered a person with whom the child spends time or otherwise has contact with (again, with the same status/rights as existed before the new Order was introduced).
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