The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced “child arrangements orders” from 22 April 2014 to replace orders for contact and residence. It also introduced a new presumption into the welfare test and allowed courts to order non-parents with whom a child spends time or has contact to have parental responsibility by way of an order.

There is no such thing as “custody” in English law any more. Instead there is the concept of parental responsibility and orders the court can make on various issues.

For most families with children, they are the focus of the family and the main issue of concern when couples separate.

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When disputes arise in relation to children, emotions can be very high and often parents feel very strongly that they have been treated unfairly or that they have the welfare of the child at heart, but the other parent does not. Sometimes there is no alternative to court proceedings. However, the problem is that in some way both parents will have to co-parent for years to come, at least until the child is 18, but often beyond that. If there is great animosity, a young adult will sometimes face questions like which parent to invite to their wedding, excluding the other, or whether to invite both and risk a family row on their big day.

It is therefore always worthwhile at least to pause and step back and see whether an alternative approach is not possible. Since the questions are often more of a practical and psychological rather than legal nature, mediation often works well, as does collaborative law. This is why it is compulsory for anyone who wants to make an application to the court for a child arrangements order to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) first (with some exceptions). Parents and children can benefit from support at this time.

For advice on your specific circumstances contact Andrea Woelke at Alternative Family Law: ring us on 020 7407 4007 (+44 20 7407 4007 from abroad) or us (stating your full name, the full name of the other person in your case and your telephone number on which we can call you).

Please note that we do not have a contract to take on cases on legal aid. To check if you may be able to get legal aid please go to this government website and contact a solicitor who has a legal aid contract.

10 February 2015 by Andrea Woelke