There is no need to do anything in relation to a child if separated parents can agree on arrangements such as where and with whom a child will live, or how much time they spend with the other parent or other person with whom they do not live. In fact, the court expect separated parents to try and resolve disputes about child arrangements outside of the court system and to be flexible about changes to any agreements that have already been made.

Unfortunately, if arrangements cannot be agreed, it will be necessary to apply to the court for orders deciding any issues. Private children law is concerned with these private disputes between adults about children and the steps that a parent can take when they exercise their rights and duties from being a parent (i.e. their parental responsibility).

What are you applying for?

Since 2014, a separated parent will be applying for a child arrangements order which replaced what some might know as ‘Contact Orders’ and ‘Residence Orders’. A child arrangements order means an order regulating arrangements relating to whom the child is to live, spend time, or otherwise have contact and when a child is to do these things.

One of the advantages of being named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live, is that you can take the child abroad for up to one month without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court. A parent not named in the child arrangements order as a person with whom the child is to live does not have this right, although there are other steps that they can take.

Who can apply?

In short, anyone can apply for a child arrangements order, but there are those who are entitled to apply and those who must seek permission of the court. For example, parents of the child can apply without permission, as can any party with whom the child has lived for a period of three years out of the last five years, providing the application is made within 3 months of the end of the period of residence. A grandparent who is being refused contact with grandchildren however, would need to obtain permission from the court to apply.

We frequently advise on Grandparents’ rights and represent other relatives and carers.

How to apply?

Anyone applying to the court for a child arrangements order must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a family mediator, unless the requirement does not apply (please click here for more information on meditaion). (Link to mediation page)

If it is necessary to apply to the court (or if you are on the receiving end of an application made by someone else) we can represent you and support you throughout the process.

Read our article, A Guide to Child Arrangements.