Child Arrangements Orders. What you need to know.
17 September 2020 by Guest Author
As children begin to return to school, many parents and guardians may be considering amends to child arrangement orders. But what steps should they take to ensure the changes are legally binding? And how can a Solicitor help guardians to find an agreement which works for everyone? Following on from this week’s Law Society Solicitor Chat, The FJG Family Law team have put together a helpful Q&A to answer a few frequently asked questions on this topic.
What steps should parents/guardians take when amending a child arrangement order?
Initially, it is best to try and discuss any issues that arise, or amendments you wish to make with the other party either directly or in mediation. A Solicitor can assist with negotiating any changes too. If agreement cannot be reached, an application to the Court will need to be made, to vary the order. You should not unilaterally change the arrangements in the order, unless in very serious circumstances where there are safeguarding concerns. Seek advice from a Solicitor in this regard as breaching a Child Arrangements Order has serious consequences.
Do the parents/guardians need to attend mediation before amending a child arrangement order?
Before making an application to the Court, you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). There are certain circumstances where this may not be required, for example, if there is a history of domestic violence, or a child is at risk of harm. A Solicitor will be able to provide greater detail in relation to other potential exemptions.
What are the main things parents/guardians need to consider before making an application to the court to vary a child arrangement order?
Consider whether and why the proposed variation is in the children’s best interests looking at the “welfare checklist”. Where possible, obtain evidence to support your position. The Court will not vary an existing order without a good reason supported by the children’s welfare.
What will the court take into consideration when reviewing an application to vary a child arrangement order?
The Court’s paramount consideration will be whether the proposal to vary the child arrangements order in the children’s best interests looking at the “welfare checklist” i.e. the child’s wishes and feelings, the child’s needs, the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs, the likely effect of any change in circumstances, any risk of harm, and the child’s characteristic. The Court will consider what further evidence may be necessary before making a decision.
Why is it important to seek expert advice from a solicitor when amending a child arrangement order?
Amending child arrangements that are set out in an order without the other parent’s consent or an order of the Court is likely to amount to a breach of the order and you could be held in contempt of court which can have serious consequences including imprisonment.
Can this negatively affect my case?
Further, you could be negatively affecting your case, criticised for not promoting the child’s relationship with the other parent and the Court has the power to change the child’s residence. You may have a defence if you are able to demonstrate that you had a reasonable excuse, for example, to safeguard the child from risk of harm.
How can a Solicitor help?
A Solicitor will advise you on what steps you should take, the pros and cons, and the strength of your case.
If you want to apply for a child arrangements order or amend an existing one, please contact FJG’s Family Law team, call 01206 700113, or email [email protected]. For more information on legal updates and changes during the Coronavirus pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Legal Advice hub.