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Children and child care disputes

People often refer to contact, residence or custody of children, however when considering how to regulate the child arrangements, the court make Child Arrangement Orders ('CAO') which deal with any of the following:

  1. with whom the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact

  2. when the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person


Contact simply means the time that a child spends with an adult. There are several ways that contact may take place:

  • direct contact between the child and the person named in the order

  • overnight staying contact

  • supervised contact, and

  • indirect contact through letters or cards


A CAO may specify the person with whom a child is to live, but not specifically where, and may provide for the child to live with one parent only or it may provide for the child to share their time between both parents.


Only certain people are automatically entitled to apply for a CAO, anyone else who is not automatically eligible may apply for a CAO if they first obtain permission of the court. If you are unsure of whether you are able to make an application let me know and I can discuss this further with you.


If it is not possible to reach an agreement about time with the children or where they should live, you can apply to the court for an order.


Before you can do this, you are required to attend Mediation to see whether you are able to reach an agreement with the other side rather than using the court.


This requirement applies unless certain exemptions, including issues relating to the safety of the child or domestic violence, apply. I can let you know whether this requirement is necessary based on you situation.


When considering what orders to make the first concern of the court will be the child’s welfare.


The Children Act 1989 provides a list of considerations for the judge who has to decide the case, which help guide them in making a decision (known as the welfare checklist), including:


  1. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned

  2. the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs

  3. the likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision

  4. the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision

  5. any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering

  6. the capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs, and

  7. the powers available to the court


Contact me for further help and advice in relation to any child arrangements issues you have.

Michael Lawless

Michael Lawless


01424 300 013

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