Joint Residency Order: Agreeing your child’s residence

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Ending a marriage or civil partnership is rarely easy and can be a particularly difficult process for those involved, including the couple, any children and the wider family. Deciding where a child should live and spend time can sometimes cause issues if both parents cannot agree on mutual terms.

However, if parents cannot reach an agreement by either sorting it themselves, through a solicitor or mediation, then they will need to approach the court for an order that can deal with residence and contact with the children involved.

Expert Family Law have a panel of family law solicitors with the experience and expertise required to assist you throughout the court order process and with child arrangements.

What types of orders are there?

In April 2014, child arrangements orders replaced residence orders and contact orders, although they are still commonly referred to as such. A child arrangement order is a court order in the UK that grants two or more people shared care and legal custody of a child or children. This means that both parents or other guardians have equal rights and parental responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This can include matters such as where they live, go to school, and receive medical care.

A child arrangement order, previously known as a joint residency order or shared residence order, can be granted to parents who are divorced, separated, or unmarried. It can also apply to other family members or individuals who have played a significant role in the child’s life, such as grandparents or stepparents.

It is important to note that a child arrangements order does not necessarily mean that the child spends an equal amount of time with each resident parent or guardian, but rather that both parties have equality of their position and responsibilities regarding the child’s welfare.

To obtain a child arrangements order, the parties must file an application with the court and provide evidence of their relationship with the child, their ability to provide for the child’s needs, and their willingness to cooperate with the other parent or guardian. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision and may also take into account the child’s wishes and feelings, depending on their age and maturity.

How can I obtain an order?

In order to obtain a child arrangement order (formerly a joint residency order) in England and Wales, you must apply to the court under The Children’s Act 1989. You will have to prove to the court that you have attended a meeting known as a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to show that mediation has not worked to resolve the issue that you are facing.

In certain situations, you may not need to attend a MIAM before making an application. This is relevant in cases where there has been domestic abuse or if the local authorities have been involved with your family.

If you need to make an application to the Court to obtain a Child Arrangement Order, the fee will be £232. If you are receiving any benefits, or if you are on a low income, you may receive help to pay this fee. When you seek legal advice, a solicitor may assist you in resolving your child arrangement dispute outside of court to help mitigate your costs.

What will the Courts consider?

During a Child Arrangement Order hearing, the welfare of the child will always take precedence in the Court’s decision-making process. The objective of the order is to ensure that the child’s best interests are at the forefront of any arrangements made, and this remains the key consideration for the Court.

In addition to this fundamental principle, the Court may also take into account various other factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child
  • Whether the child is in danger or has suffered abuse
  • The child’s needs
  • Each parents’ capacity to provide for the child and meet their needs
  • How the changes to arrangements caused by the order may affect the child

How long does it take to get a Child Arrangement Order?

The duration needed to obtain a final Child Arrangement Order hinges on several factors, such as the intricacy of the case, the level of cordiality between the involved parents or guardians, and whether the child or children in question require safeguarding.

Mediation is the fastest method to reach an agreement. If all parties are amenable to mediation, the arrangement’s terms can be established without court proceedings.

If the case advances to court, it generally takes six to eight weeks from the application submission to the preliminary hearing. Accounting for the initial stages of booking and attending the MIAM, paperwork preparation, and attending court, it can take anywhere between three months and a year to resolve the case and produce a final order.

How can Expert Family Law’s panel of solicitors assist?

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 advice and assistance on obtaining a Child Arrangement Order (formerly a Joint Residency Order) from the Family Court if an agreement cannot be reached between the parents or through the process of mediation.

As well as assisting with child 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 solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

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