Arrangements for Children
What are Child arrangements orders?
Child arrangements orders (CAO) regulate with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact and when a child will live, spend time or otherwise have contact with a person. For example, if you and your partner have separated and you want your child to live with you, but cannot agree on this, then you will need to apply to the court for a CAO regulating your child’s living arrangements. Alternatively if you have agreed that your child will live with one parent but cannot agree the amount of time that your child will spend with the non-resident parent, you will need to apply to the court for a CAO regulating contact arrangements. A CAO regulating contact arrangements requires the person with whom the child lives to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order, or for that person and the child to otherwise have contact with each other. The order will set out when the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact with the person named in the order.
What are the benefits of having a child arrangements order naming you as the person with whom the child is to live?
Being named as a person with whom a child is to live in a CAO, means that you have the right to take the child abroad for up to one month without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court. A parent who is not named as the person with whom the child lives in a CAO does not have this right.
Orders regulating contact arrangements
If you and your former partner cannot agree on contact arrangements or if the parent with whom the child lives is unreasonably preventing contact from taking place, it will be necessary to apply to the court for a CAO to settle these arrangements. The court may order any of the following types of contact to take place under a CAO:-
Direct and indirect contact arrangements
Direct contact arrangements involve the child having contact with a named person by staying with or visiting them. Indirect contact is where the contact takes place by letter, e-mail, Skype, text or telephone. Indirect contact arrangements are ordered if it is not appropriate for the child to see the person directly (for example, where there is a potential risk to the child).
Overnight and visiting contact arrangements
Direct contact arrangements can involve the child visiting the person named in a CAO for a few hours or staying with them overnight. Contact arrangements can also be phased. If the child has spent no time with the non-resident parent, contact arrangements may begin as indirect arrangements by letter or email to reintroduce the child to the absent parent, progressing to visiting contact for a few hours. Contact arrangements can gradually be extended to longer periods of time, ultimately leading to overnight stays.
Supervised and unsupervised contact arrangements
If the court considers that there is a risk to the child’s welfare through direct or indirect contact arrangements, it can order contact arrangements to be supervised by a third party, such as in a contact centre. If there are no welfare concerns, contact arrangements are likely to be unsupervised.
When Do Child Arrangements Orders Come to an End?
CAO regulating contact will continue until the child is 16 years old, or 18 years old in exceptional circumstances. The court can also stipulate the duration in the order. CAO regulating with whom the child is to live or when the child is to live with any person or both continue until the child is 18 years old. CAO end automatically if a child’s parents live together for a continuous period of more than six months.
For more information about Child Arrangements Orders, please contact us or download our guide here