Getting a Child Arrangement Order in the UK – everything you need to know
Getting a Child Arrangement Order in the UK is often a sensible step when a child’s parents decide to separate. You can apply for a CAO as a parent or grandparent – and there are many reasons why you might want to do so.
Even if all you want is a basis for a good co-parenting system, sometimes a Child Arrangements Order is a good idea.
Here is everything you need to know about what a Child Arrangement Order is and how they work:
What Is A Child Arrangement Order In The UK?
In the UK, a Child Arrangement Order is a legally binding court order that in cases of parents separating or divorcing, sets out:
- Who a child will live with
- Who a child will have contact and spend time with
- The amount of time a child will spend with any given family member
Each order is created on an individual basis and the court will always aim to make it most beneficial for the child in question.
What’s The Difference Between Custody And A Child Arrangement Order?
“Custody” is a term that is still used in some casual contexts, but it fell out of official use a few decades ago. These days, “custody” is much more likely to be referred to as “child arrangements”.
Though this might seem like a meaningless change, the theory behind it is sound. Having “custody” of a child can feel to the child like they’re an object to be owned. It’s also the same term the police use when they have a suspect “in custody”.
Terms like “child arrangements” and “parental responsibility” sound much more positive to any children involved in the process.
Who Can Apply For A Child Arrangement Order In The UK?
Mediation is a required first step before applying for a Child Arrangement Order no matter who you are. Mediation is a series of arranged meetings with your former partner under the guidance of a neutral third-party professional called a mediator. It is proven and effective in many cases.
Only once mediation has been tried can the following people apply for a Child Arrangement Order:
- Parents – have an automatic right to apply.
- Grandparents – need to apply to the court for permission if they feel their grandchildren have been unfairly limited from spending time with them or they feel they would be better guardians than one or other parent.
Why Would Someone Get A Child Arrangement Order?
Some Child Arrangements Orders are created by both parents as a kind of baseline for the co-parenting system they want. Many more are applied for by parents or grandparents who feel they are being unfairly prevented from spending time with their child or grandchild.
That said, the most important concept of CAOs is that they are designed around what is best for the child. They are to guarantee that your child gets to spend time with you, not the other way around.
It is the child’s rights that are always the most important in the court’s eyes and the child’s best interests they will consider when creating a CAO.
How Long Does A Child Arrangement Order Take?
The average timespan to get a Child Arrangement Order in the UK is between six and twelve months.
This may change depending on the complexity of your case and if there are any concerns around safeguarding.
How Much Does It Cost To Get A Child Arrangement Order?
It costs £232 to apply for a Child Arrangement Order. You can get some help with this if you meet the requirements to be “fee exempt”.
There may also be solicitors fees if you choose to get legal advice and representation. This can be a good idea if you want to be confident of making your case in the most effective way possible.
What If A Party Breaks A Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangements Order is legally binding. However, there isn’t any system for monitoring if any party breaks a CAO. This means the courts will only know there is an issue if someone reports one.
In many cases, being able to deviate from the exact wording of the order is a good thing. It allows separated couples to slowly reach a more comfortable and happier balance with their child arrangements.
However, if the breaches in the CAO become a problem for one party, you can make a formal application for enforcement. The court may agree and make what is called an “Enforcement Order”. This can result in the non-compliant party being warned, find, or even sentenced to community service or prison in the worst cases.
Can A CAO Be Amended?
Because Child Arrangement Orders aren’t monitored, you and your former partner can make informal changes to your arrangements – as long as you are both happy – without changing any existing CAO.
However, it can be a good idea to apply for what is called “variation” of the existing Child Arrangement Order. To do this, you will need to show that the new arrangements you are proposing are in the best interests of the child involved.
If you want to amend a Child Arrangement Order, it can be good to at least talk it over with an expert first. Solicitors Near Me can find you a friendly and helpful family law solicitor for FREE and with zero commitment.