What are Child Arrangement Orders

If parents cannot agree on who should take custody of children then both parties can seek a Child Arrangement Order. This Court Order is usually necessary when there are children present during a separation or divorce where no amicable agreement can be decided.

Our child arrangement solicitors can assist with disputes as to who will look after the children when, and also help to agree on a schedule with your former partner if needs be.

A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives
  • when your child spends time with each parent
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example)

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’.

There are also orders available which deal with a specific issue in respect of the child, for example: what school they should attend, religion, taking your child abroad if a person with parental responsibility will not give permission.

A prohibited steps order is also available to stop the other parent (or person with parental responsibility) from making a unilateral decision about a child’s upbringing.

Applications for a child arrangement order are open to mother, father, grandparents or anyone with parental responsibility. There are occasions when a person does not hold parental responsibility such as grandparents or fathers, when permission from the court to make an application will apply.

If you are able to reach an agreement and simply want it set down in writing for your reference, we are happy to prepare a Deed of Parenting. Whilst this will not oust the court’s jurisdiction it can give peace of mind to parents striving to keep to a routine and parent the children in unison.

The paramount consideration for the Court when making orders pertaining to a child is the child’s welfare. When considering an application for child arrangements or a Special Guardianship Order the court will have regard to Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 – the “Welfare Checklist”.

The welfare checklist consists of seven statutory criteria that the courts must consider under the Children Act 1989 when reaching its decision in cases involving children.

The seven criteria set out in the welfare checklist under s1(3) Children Act 1989 are:

1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
2. The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
3. The likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision
4. The child’s age, sex, backgrounds and any other characteristics which will be relevant to the court’s decision
5. Any harm the child has suffered or maybe at risk of suffering
6. Capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the courts find relevant) at meeting the child’s needs
7. The powers available to the court in the given proceedings

1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
The court must consider the wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account the child’s age and level of understanding in the circumstances. This will normally be determined by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) or social services, and reported to the court. In some cases, a judge may speak directly with a child to determine their wishes and feelings if this is deemed necessary.

The court will take into account whether or not a child’s wishes and feelings are their own, or whether outside factors may have influenced their decisions. There may also be a conflict of opinion between the parents’/guardians’ views and that of the child. The court will balance the views of the parties concerned, including the views of a child who is of an understanding age and mature enough to form their own opinions.

2. The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
The court will consider who is in the best position to provide for the child’s emotional, physical and educational needs. A child’s emotional needs can be more difficult to deal with, and the court will consider who is best able to provide for the emotional needs of the child – both short term and long term.

3. The likely effect on the child of changes in circumstances
The potential impact of changes to the child’s life will be considered. The courts will aim to make an order that causes the least disruption to a child’s life, however, this will be balanced against the other factors to be considered.

4. The child’s age, sex, background and other relevant characteristics
The court will consider specific issues such as religion, race and culture when making a decision about a child. They may also take the parents’/guardians’ hobbies and lifestyle choices into account if they feel this will impact the child’s life, either now or in future.

5. Risk of harm to the child
The courts will look at the risk of harm to the child. This means immediate risk of harm, as well as the risk of harm in the future. ‘Harm’ includes physical, emotional and mental harm. The courts will weigh up the potential risk of harm to the child in future and make an order as appropriate. An order may include safety measures to protect the child.

6. Parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
The courts will consider how able each parent is to care for the child and to meet their particular needs. This will be subjective and depend on the facts and circumstance of each case – the needs of the child and the abilities of the parents concerned.

7. The range of powers available to the courts
The court must weigh up all the factors under the welfare checklist, and consider all available orders within their discretion. It will then make the best order available that is in the best interests of the child.

Special Guardianship Order

A special Guardianship Order provides a child with a more permanent status. There are many people who provide children with care, for example: foster carers or those from the child’s family, such as grandparents and brothers and sisters, even friends of the family, all of whom could become the child’s Special Guardian subject to being over 18 years of age.

We can advise and assist you through the various steps that need to be taken and liaise with the local authority to carry out the necessary reports that need to be considered when making an application for a Special Guardianship Order under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 [Section 115 (1)] which makes provision under Section 14 A-F of the Children Act 1989.

Our Brighton-based solicitors also have experience in processing a Special Guardianship Order should a Child Arrangement Order be unsuitable or social services deem it necessary.


We can also act in cases where the local authority is considering taking action against you or your family because of concerns they may have about the welfare of children. We can help you through the process or, of course, dispute it.
For those in the Brighton and wider Sussex area, we can, if it is an emergency, get into Court that day.
Our Child Arrangement Order solicitors in Brighton deal with all disputes in relation to Child Arrangement Orders, including who the child will live with, contact with the non-resident parent, specific issues and prohibited steps. Contact us today.

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