A child arrangements order can be about where a child should live. Until 2014 this used to be called a residence order. In cases where parents separate and there is a dispute about where children should live, the court decides this according to the child's welfare, while the a main consideration is usually who has been the main carer for the child. In practice in our experience where a mother and a father have separated, there is probably an assumption (rightly or wrongly) that the mother has been the main carer, and if this has not been the case, the father has the burden to prove this.
Where there is a child arrangements order in force about with whom a child should live, that person can take the child outside England and Wales for up
to a month at a time without needing the permission of any other persons
who have parental responsibility or the court. Of course this makes holiday
trips abroad easier. Therefore a child arrangements order about where a child should live may be appropriate in a case where one parent unreasonably withholds consent to normal holiday trips abroad or tends to wait until the last minute when travel has become expensive.
Anther reason to get a child arragements order about where a child should live is to give parental responsibility to a social parent who would otherwise not have it, for example:
More and more parents see shared care as the best solution. The introduction of child arrangements orders should promote voluntary arrangements between parents to agree that a child lives with both of them and the times it lives with each parent.
A child arrangements order providing that a child lives with both separated parents does not mean that the child will live one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent, or 3½ days each week with each parent. The time the child spends with each parent can still vary, for example, in a 14-day cycle with 5 of 14 nights with the father and the remaining with the mother, or of course the other way round. This will very much depend on the circumstances including work patterns and location of the parents’ homes and the child’s school. Nevertheless, unequal time can determine maintenance payments through the Child Maintenance Service.
For more information and practical examples see the page about shared care.
It is always best to try to avoid court proceedings of course because the judge can only make an order. An order does not enforce itself and if someone does not comply with the order or takes a “work-to-rule” approach, matters can continue to be difficult. There will also be issues arising in the future of a child’s life where parents have to work together.
Mediation is an inexpensive way to find solutions outside the court system and it is particularly suitable to resolve issues about children. 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). Our support page has a wealth of resources for parents to help them to parent together successfully, nurturing their child.
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 email 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.
22 April 2014 by Andrea Woelke
3 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RQ, T: +44 20 7407 4007
This is an outline of the law, practice and procedure in England and Wales. It should not be taken as specific advice. All families and couples are different. The law may have changed since this was written and we therefore accept no liability for inaccuracies. Where examples are given, your personal circumstances may vary slightly, but the difference may be significant for the outcome of the legal process. Contact us for specific advice on your own circumstances.
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