On the 22nd April 2014, the terms ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ were replaced by child arrangement orders.

The court prefers that the child’s parents agree between themselves where the child should live and how the other parent will arrange to see them.

If you can do this between yourselves there is no need for a court order. It is important for the benefit of the child or children that you make decisions about them together, but you can act on your own if you need to, for example if you need to give consent for emergency medical treatment.

If you cannot agree then you may have to make an application to the court. Before you do this it is now a requirement that you attend an information session with a mediation agency, unless you are exempt, to find out about mediation and consider if it is for you. If mediation is not an option, either of you can then make an application to the court. If you are married you do not need to wait until you are divorced.

The court will endeavour to ensure that you both come to an agreement, but if you cannot agree the court will make an order. The court will only make an order if it would be better for the child than not making one, and most cases involving children are usually settled by agreement which is generally better for everyone, saving legal costs and most importantly preserving the future relationship.

If arrangements are causing problems it may be helpful to use a child contact centre as a neutral meeting place.

Child Arrangement Orders (Formerly Child Residence and Child Contact Orders)

The court can make the following orders in relation to your child.

  • An Order saying where a child should live. The court can make such an order in favour of more than one person, stipulating how long the child should spend with each (replaces a residence order).
  • An Order saying how much time is spent with a parent (regulates telephone calls, visits, overnight stays, weekends or holidays with the absent parent – formerly a contact order).
  • A Prohibited Steps Order is called into play when one parent objects to something that the other parent is doing concerning their child. That parent can apply to the court for the other person to stop doing it.

The court can consider a Specific Issue Order if parents are unable to agree on a specific aspect of their child’s upbringing such as where your child should go to school.

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