Child Arrangement Dispute 

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The breakdown of a family unit can be a very emotional and sensitive time for those involved.

When parents cannot agree on the living and care arrangement of their children it is referred to as a child arrangement dispute. This is often the case when parents are divorcing or separating.

Our panel of family law solicitors understand how emotional child arrangement disputes can be. They work tirelessly to reach an agreement that is best for the welfare of the children.

Child arrangement disputes can typically be resolved through negotiation, mediation, or using the court system. It is generally much better for all parties involved in a dispute for it to be resolved outside of court. Dispute resolution meetings aim to assist in this.

Resolving a child arrangement dispute

Child arrangement disputes are resolved primarily through negotiation, mediation, and, if necessary, through court intervention. Outlined below is an overview of the process:

Negotiation and Mediation:

Direct Negotiation:

Parents are encouraged to discuss and reach an agreement on child arrangements directly.


If direct negotiation is not successful, mediation is the next step. A neutral third party (a mediator) helps parents reach an agreement. Mediation is a required step before going to court, except in cases of domestic abuse or urgency.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM):

Before applying to court, parents must attend a MIAM to see if mediation is suitable for their situation. Exceptions are made for cases involving domestic violence or other specific circumstances.

If a parents can come to an agreement using negotiation or mediation, they should obtain a court order to make the decision legally binding.

Court intervention for a child arrangement dispute

If mediation fails or is deemed inappropriate, parents can apply to the Family Court. The court will then determine the arrangements based on the best interests of the child.

Application to Court:

To start the process, a parent files Form C100 with the court. There is a fee for filing the application, although fee exemptions or reductions may apply for low-income individuals.

Court Hearings:

First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA):

The first court hearing where the judge identifies issues and tries to help parents reach an agreement on the child arrangement dispute.

Further Hearings:

If no agreement is reached at the FHDRA, additional hearings may be scheduled. This includes a final hearing where the judge makes a decision.

Types of Court Orders

The court can make several types of orders under the Children Act 1989:

Child Arrangements Order (CAO):

  • Living arrangements: Specifies with whom the children live (residence).
  • Contact arrangements: Specifies when, where, and how the child will spend time with the other parent (contact).

Specific Issue Order:

  • Addresses a specific question about the child’s upbringing, such as education, religious upbringing, or medical treatment.

Prohibited Steps Order:

  • Prevents a parent from taking a specific action concerning the child. This may include moving abroad or changing the child’s school without consent.


How can Expert Family Law assist?

Our panel of family law solicitors are highly experienced in dealing with child arrangement disputes. They can effectively assist clients come to agreeable solutions.

Some of the solicitors on our panel may offer a fixed fee for child arrangement cases. In some circumstances, you may be entitled to legal aid.

Our panel of family law solicitors can help with child arrangements, child maintenance, and parental rights. They can also provide guidance on divorce and dividing assets after a marriage or civil partnership ends.

Get in touch with our family law team today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a family lawyer from a law firm on our panel could help on your case.

Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors. However, by submitting your enquiry, you are agreeing that you are happy for us to refer your case to one of the firms on our panel of solicitors. You are under no obligation to use the services of any of our panel firms or any company we introduce you to.


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