Child Arrangement Solicitors
Child Arrangement Orders
Our experienced and specialist child solicitors can help you in resolving disputes as to the arrangements for your children following family breakdown. Read on to find out how our expert lawyers can help you and your family.
Maria Kitsiou Partner
“The lawyers at Osbornes are very well established and have a lot of experience between them, which gives them a lot of confidence and a willingness to think out of the box.”
“Osbornes has incredible strength in depth across every area of family law, from public law children and child abduction proceedings, through to adoption and surrogacy, and private client work”
Arrangements for children
When children are caught up in a divorce or separation, most parents will have their welfare uppermost in their minds. However, as each person seeks to forge a future, sometimes hard decisions can be exacerbated by the complexities of life particularly if there is significant wealth, children from multiple marriages, or an international dimension to the family.
Here at Osbornes Law, we are experienced in negotiating arrangements for children after divorce or separation, including international divorce. We can help to ensure children continue to see both their parents and extended family members, and that their financial needs are met appropriately. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience in creative solutions to best meet your family’s needs.
Putting the interests of children first
The welfare interest of your children must be paramount in any decisions, and if a dispute has to go to court this will be the guiding principle. Once we have discussed your circumstances and wishes, we will advise you on the legal position. These considerations are wide-ranging, from the age and sex of each child to their own wishes and feelings on matters. Older children may have their own interests and needs which must be accommodated. For example, we have experience in negotiating arrangements for gifted children whose training programmes and competitive schedules had to be taken into account.
Agreeing on where children can live and stay
The living arrangements for children is a significant consideration when parents separate. Aside from the emotional aspects, the family home will often be one of the largest assets in the negotiation of a financial settlement after a divorce.
If you cannot agree amicably over the children’s living arrangements, then we will advise you on family mediation and how best to prepare for this. If there is no resolution following mediation, we can advise and represent you during court proceedings. In most circumstances, it will be necessary for you to attend mediation before court proceedings can be issued.
The housing needs of the children are dealt with as part and parcel of the financial settlement on divorce. If the matrimonial home needs to be sold, then it may be possible for the sale to be postponed until the children are adults.
We can advise you on your options and what will best suit your needs. If you are not married and are concerned about the housing needs of your children, then we can advise you on a possible application under the Children Act for a housing fund.
Agreeing to financial provision for children
If you and your partner have separated, whether you had been married or not, there is an ongoing obligation to ensure that your children are provided for.
Generally, in the UK, the parent who lives with the children will receive monthly child maintenance payments towards their upkeep from the other parent. Our lawyers will be able to advise you on what amount of money is appropriate given your own family circumstances. This will consider income, how many children there are and how many overnight stays the children have with each parent.
We will always endeavour to reach an agreement with your former partner. However, if an agreement is not possible, you can apply to the Child Maintenance Services (CMS) which will only become involved if both parents reside in the UK. The CMS will calculate the money that needs to be paid, and if necessary, they may be able to recover payments directly from your former partner’s employer.
For paying parents, any income you receive over £3,000 gross per week will not be included in a CMS assessment. However, your former partner can take you to court for a top-up in maintenance or lump sum payments. The court is not restricted in what income or assets it can consider, including trust funds.
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A child arrangement order is a court order that sets out the arrangements for where a child will live and when they will spend time with each parent. It can cover several different aspects, including:
- Who the child will live with primarily
- When the child will spend time with each parent, for example, after school, at weekends and during school holidays
- Whether conditions are attached to visits, for example, if visits should take place with a supervisor present or at a certain time
- When the child spends time with other family members, such as grandparents or siblings
- The type of contact that can take place outside of visits, such as phone calls and text messages
- The arrangements for contact if one parent lives overseas
Child arrangement orders have replaced Contact Orders and Residence Orders, although parents who have these orders do not need to reapply for a new order.
Who can apply for a child arrangement order?
Most often, the child’s biological parents will apply for a child arrangement order when they divorce or separate. However, that is not always the case. Any party to the marriage and anyone the child has lived with for at least three years can also apply. This allows step-parents and other family members to seek a child arrangement order. For example, grandparents may apply if they have played a significant role in the child’s life and feel their access is unfairly restricted.
What is the process for applying for a child arrangement order?
The first step is to try and agree with the other parent about the arrangements for your child. You must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) if you cannot do this. This is where you will meet with a mediator to discuss the possibility of resolving your differences amicably.
As with other aspects of divorce, mediation is usually a cheaper and quicker option than going to court.
Will there be a court hearing?
If mediation is unsuitable or does not work, you can apply to the court for a child arrangement order. The first step is to complete the relevant paperwork, which includes an application form and a statement of facts. You must also pay the court fee, which is currently £232. Child arrangement orders are legally binding, so if you have not consulted with a solicitor during your separation, this is the time to do so.
There will then be several court hearings where a decision on the arrangements will be made. All parties to the proceedings must attend the hearings.
What will the court consider?
Each child arrangement order is decided on the circumstances of the individual family. There is no standard order that will be applied in all cases. The child’s welfare is always the paramount consideration, and the court will make an order that it believes is in the child’s best interests.
Beyond this guiding principle, the court may take into account:
- The wishes and feelings of the child (if the child is of an appropriate age)
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect of any change in circumstances on the child
- The ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child
- Any risk that one parent may pose to the safety or welfare of the child
The Court has overall discretion.
How long does a child arrangement order last?
A child arrangement order lasts until the child reaches the age of 16. However, the arrangements set out in the order can be changed with the help of a solicitor if both parents agree. If one parent wishes to vary the order, but the other does not, they will need to apply to the court for permission.
What happens when a child arrangement order is breached?
If one party breaches the child arrangement order, it is possible to ask the court to enforce it. The court will schedule a preliminary hearing to determine why the order is not followed and decide what action must be taken. This may involve referring the parents to mediation or imposing fines on a parent who failed to comply without a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse could be that the child wasn’t well or transport problems prevented the parent from complying with the order. The Court will not make an Enforcement Order if the person in breach can prove they had a reasonable excuse.
In very serious cases, the non-compliant parent may be imprisoned for contempt of court.
Our advice to those in a dispute about child contact arrangements is as follows:
- Tackle the issue as soon as possible, as child contact matters take time to resolve.
- Attempt to agree on a plan between yourselves, but be wary if the other parent’s proposals fall far short of offering you reasonable time and if they take several days to reply.
- If you cannot agree, your solicitor can write to the other parent, asking them to agree to child contact.
- If this fails, virtual mediation is worth considering; virtual and not face-to-face can take the heat out of the situation. Propose this through your solicitor and clarify when you need a response. Note that the court does not require you to attend mediation – the requirement is only to meet with a mediator on your own to find out about mediation and discuss whether that is a possible route for your case.
- If this still does not resolve things, you must apply to the family courts to deal with the child contact arrangements. If the matter concerns the summer holidays specifically, your solicitor can seek an urgent hearing, but the likelihood is that you could be waiting eight or more weeks.
How Osbornes can help with your Child Arrangement Order?
The first thing to do is to contact us. One of our expert lawyers will take a history of your circumstances and discuss your desired outcome. Then, they will explain your options, likely timescales, and costs.
Our lawyers, all accredited members of Resolution, aim to maintain a civil relationship with your former partner. We also have several specialist solicitors who are accredited members of the Law Society’s Children Act panel and can support you through court proceedings if required. We will advise you on your rights and options. We will negotiate firmly on your behalf to obtain the best agreement regarding your children’s living arrangements, financial provision, and implications for the family home.
If you have a prenuptial or a post-nuptial agreement, we will need to see a copy of this document. If you are overseas or outside London, we have high-speed video conferencing facilities and a full online service to ensure you are kept up-to-date and fully appraised of your case and legal options.
Find out more about our other children law services:
The team is experienced in handling matters where there are allegations of abuse and non-accidental injury, as well as situations where children's welfare is at risk due to parents' substance misuse or mental health issues.
The lawyers at Osbornes are very well established and have a lot of experience between them, which gives them a lot of confidence and a willingness to think out of the box.
Their client care is really impressive and they have such breadth of experience
In a long standing issue with my ex and our child, Lisa and her team have always given me advice that has been first class. Lisa has a deep knowledge of how the courts work and which arguments will work and which will not and will advice exactly what to do and when.
My solicitor Jon Jonas came across as a genuine, very skilled solicitor who demonstrated great insights and experience in complex child arrangement cases. He has been able to create and implement an effective strategy to deal with extremely toxic matters.
Bridget Thompson is a public law specialist noted for her extensive children public law practice.
"David Leadercrammer is such an experienced wonderful lawyer who you would want on the other side of your case. He’s sensible, pragmatic and hugely experienced in money and children cases."
"Bridget Thompson combines her excellent legal knowledge with a clear, succinct and robust style of advice and advocacy. Her approach clearly inspires a high degree of client confidence in her"
"She is excellent. She's very reliable, talks about her cases passionately and is very committed to her clients."
"I consider the firm to be very experienced in child care cases and to provide a very professional and high standard of work"
Bridget Thompson is a public law specialist noted for her extensive practice in matters involving alternative families and adoption. An interviewee observes: "She's a fighter, she's clever, and she understands all aspects of a case."
"Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."
"Simone is absolutely on top of the game. She has great attention to detail, and has her clients' needs at heart."
"Bridget is client-focused, a pleasure to work with and incredibly supportive to her clients."
Bridget Thompson heads the family team, where client care is the top priority.
Simone McGrath is a highly knowledgeable practitioner with a focus on international child abduction matters. She has a large expertise in public and private law.
Simone McGrath handles international child abduction cases and challenging care proceedings relating to non-accidental injuries.
This team is perhaps best known for its children work, often involving complex international dynamics.
Naomi Angell leads the market in cross-border children law matters. Sources confirm that she is "at the cutting edge of changing law and policy" when it comes to international adoption
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