What is a Child Arrangements Order and Why Do I Need One?

If you are separated or divorced, it can be difficult to negotiate who lives with your children and when contact takes place. A child arrangements order, ordered by the court, formalises the arrangements so that everyone knows where they stand.

What is a child arrangement order?

A child arrangements order is a formal, court-ordered document that sets out who is responsible for the care of a child. It can cover who the child lives with, when they see each parent and what other contact they have (such as phone calls). The court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when making such an order.

In some situations, parents might be given joint custody or shared care, so that the child spends equal time with each parent. In others, one parent may be specified as the parent with whom the child should live and the other parent will spend time with the child at agreed times.

You might have heard of residence orders and contact orders. You may also think of these arrangements as ‘custody’ and ‘access’.  A child arrangement order replaces these and covers both residence and contact.

Why is a child arrangement order necessary?

Some separated parents are able to come to an informal agreement about child arrangements without the involvement of the court. They may use mediation to help make these decisions.

But parents do not always agree on how to split the care of their children. If you are unable to come to an agreement yourselves and mediation is not successful, a child arrangement order is needed.

Who can apply?

Anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a child arrangements order. This may be:

  • A biological parent
  • A guardian
  • The spouse of a parent
  • Another adult who has lived with the child on a long-term basis

Any other adult wanting to apply for a child arrangements order, such as a grandparent not living with the child, may be able to do so, but must apply to the court for permission first.


Father and daughter


How to apply

To apply for a child arrangements order, you must usually show that you have tried mediation, by producing a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings) form, signed by the mediator. This may not apply if domestic violence is involved.

You must then fill in a C100 form and submit it online or by post.

You should read the following leaflets to help you fill in the form:

It can be useful to have input from an experienced family law solicitor when making your application. They will be able to advise you on how the process works and the best course of action for your own individual circumstance.

The completed application should be sent to the court nearest to where your child or children live, along with the court fee of £215. The court will then set a date for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA).

If the other parent of your child has made an application, you will be sent a copy of the form, which you will need to complete and return to the Court.

How long does a child arrangements order last?

A child arrangements order is legally binding until a child reaches the age of 18. If your circumstances change and you wish to change the agreement, you will need to make another application to the court.

Contact us for family law advice

At Hepburn Delaney, we specialise in family law. We can help you with every aspect of separation, divorce, mediation and applying for a child arrangements order. Contact us on 01442 218090 or email info@hepburndelaney.co.uk to arrange an appointment with one of our family law solicitors.