Child Contact Order: Making child arrangements

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What is a child contact order?

A child contact order is a legally binding document that sets out the arrangements for when and how a non-resident parent or guardian can have contact with a child. It is typically issued by a court and outlines the specific details of the contact, such as the frequency and duration of visits, where the child spends time, and whether any supervision is required.

A child contact order is usually issued when the parents or guardians of a child are unable to come to an agreement about contact arrangements themselves, and there are concerns about the child’s welfare or where the child lives. The Court order is designed to ensure that the child has regular and meaningful contact with the non-resident parent or guardian, while also taking into account any risks or concerns that may exist.

It’s important to note that child contact orders are only issued in certain circumstances and are not always appropriate or necessary. The best interests of the child are always the primary consideration when making decisions about contact arrangements, and the court will take into account a range of factors, including the child’s age, their relationship with each parent, and any other relevant circumstances.

Who can apply for a child contact order?

In the UK, anyone who has parental responsibility for a child can apply for a child contact order. This includes parents, legal guardians, and sometimes other family members, such as grandparents. In addition, individuals who do not have parental responsibility, such as step-parents or other relatives, may also apply for a child contact order if they have a significant relationship with the child and if it is in the child’s best interests.

It’s important to note that before making an application for a child contact order, it is recommended that the parties try to resolve the issue through mediation or negotiation. In cases where mediation or negotiation is not possible, an application to the court may be necessary.

What types of child contact order are there?

In the UK, there are two main types of child contact orders:

  1. Child Arrangements Order – this type of order regulates with whom a child is to live, spend time, or otherwise have contact with. A Child Arrangements Order can also deal with other aspects of the child’s upbringing, such as the child’s education or religious upbringing.
  2. Specific Issue Order – this type of order is made to resolve a specific issue about the child’s upbringing that the parties cannot agree on. For example, a Specific Issue Order may be made to determine which school a child should attend or whether a child should undergo a certain medical treatment.

It’s important to note that both types of orders can include provisions for contact between the child and a non-resident parent or family member. The court will make decisions about what is in the best interests of the child when considering any applications for contact orders.

How old does the child have to be for a child contact order to be made?

There is no specific age at which a child contact order can be made, as each case is decided on its own unique circumstances. However, they only last until the child reaches the age of 16 but can be varied or discharged should circumstances change.

In the United Kingdom, the Children Act 1989 sets out the principle that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration in any decisions made by the court. When making decisions about contact arrangements, the court will consider a range of factors, including the child’s age, maturity, and understanding, as well as their wishes and feelings.

In some cases, children as young as five or six may be able to express their views about contact arrangements, while in other cases, older children may be less able to do so due to their individual circumstances. Ultimately, the court will take a holistic view of the child’s best interests, including their emotional, physical, and educational needs, when making a decision about a child contact order.

Child contact order – FAQ’s

Should I seek court action to gain contact with a child?

When being prevented from seeing your child or grandchild, your first instinct would tell you to apply to the court straight away; however, the courts do not take the same approach. The court will need to be satisfied that all possible steps have been taken for parties to attempt to reach an agreement regarding child contact.

The first step that should be taken is negotiation with the other party or parties involved. It is often helpful to let the children involved express their wishes if they are old enough to do so.

With the aid of a specialist family law solicitor, successful negotiation is often achieved as a more objective approach to the negotiations can be taken, removing some of the tension and emotion from the overall situation. To find out how one of our child contact solicitors from our panel can be of assistance, get in touch today using the form at the top of the page.

What happens if my case goes to court?

If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation regarding child contact, it will be necessary to make an application to the Court to obtain a child contact order. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will be instructed by the court to provide a report and make recommendations on the nest possible options for contact. The court will also have to consider a number of factors, such as:

  • What decision would be in the best interests of the child
  • Which contact arrangements will meet the welfare needs of the child
  • Whether contact arrangements may have an impact on the child’s education
  • Whether there would be any risk of neglect or harm to the child in allowing the proposed contact arrangements

The Court will need to hear from those involved in the case and upon Court hearings, will decide upon how contact should be put in place using a child contact order. The Court may also find that a prohibited steps order may be suitable if one party must be prohibited from making certain decisions about their child’s life.

How much do child contact solicitors cost?

You will be required to pay the costs of your solicitor plus any court fees. The costs of your solicitor will depend on the panel firm handling your case. Most firms on our panel offer a transparent fee structure on a fixed fee basis, or on a pay as you go rate.

All fees will be discussed with you by your appointed solicitor before you agree to proceed with your child contact case.

Legal Aid may be available to parties who have suffered domestic abuse.

How can a firm from Expert Family Law's panel of child contact solicitors help me?

We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The solicitors on our panel can provide you with the best legal advice and assistance when applying for a child contact order from the Court if the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation.

As well as assisting with child contact arrangements, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and assist on the process of divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).

We ensure that the family law solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist on your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a child arrangement order solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

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