8 Considerations of the Court when making Child Arrangement Orders
If you have been unable to agree on how much time your child should spend with each parent or who your child should live with, the last resort would be to ask the Court to make the decision.
It is impossible to predict exactly what decision the Court will make in your specific case, however, we can be sure that the Court’s main focus will always be what is in the child’s best interests.
Expert children solicitor Jennifer Hargreaves looks at the main factors the Court considers when deciding contact arrangements for children.
Pre-existing arrangements (often referred to as the ‘status quo’)
The Court will evaluate any arrangements that are already in place for your children. If your children are currently staying overnight it is likely the Court would consider a similar arrangement (unless there are any safeguarding reasons).
If you are not having any contact with your child or children already, it is likely that contact would have to be introduced. This would be in accordance with your child’s needs and pace.
During the course of the Court proceedings, you would have the opportunity to inform the Court of what arrangements you believe would be best for your child and the reasons why. The Judge would find it helpful to have an insight into your child and your current relationship with them before making an overall decision.
Allegations raised by parents
It is the Court’s duty to investigate allegations raised by parents during the proceedings to determine whether they are true or false.
The Court’s approach would differ depending on the type of allegations and the severity.
For example, if the allegation is related to domestic violence, the Court may request statements from both parties, police reports or medical evidence to ascertain whether there is any evidence to support the allegations raised.
If there are allegations related to drug or alcohol misuse, the Court may direct the party to submit a drug or alcohol test.
The age of the child/children
The age of your child is also something the Court takes into consideration.
If your child is quite young, for example between the ages of 0-2 years old, the Court in some situations may consider it appropriate for the child to have short and regular periods of contact with the absent parent.
As your child grows up, their wishes and feelings may carry more weight.
Physical, Emotional and Educational Needs
As your children become older their needs will change. Therefore, the Court would like to have a clear understanding of your child’s short and long-term needs. The Court must be satisfied that the parents are able to manage these changes and be in the position to always provide stability for the child.
Is a Court order necessary?
The Court will only make a Child Arrangements Order for your child if it is deemed necessary and in your child’s best interests. The Court will consider whether it would be in your child’s best interest for no order to be made at all, this is more commonly known as the “No Order Principle”.
The “No Order Principle” discourages any unnecessary orders and instead promotes parental cooperation and agreement.
Cafcass is an independent organisation tasked with looking after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. Cafcass work with children and their families and advises the Court on what it considers to be in the children’s best interests.
In most child arrangements applications, Cafcass would usually carry out certain checks prior to the first hearing. During their initial checks, Cafcass would speak to both parents. This would provide the parents with an opportunity to raise any safeguarding or welfare concerns they may have. Cafcass would also make enquiries with the police and Local Authority. Upon receipt, Cafcass would prepare a letter to the Court summarising their findings and identify any potential welfare issues.
At the first hearing, the Court would determine whether it is necessary for Cafcass to be involved in the proceedings going forward – the Court may ask Cafcass to prepare a more detailed report and make recommendations as to what the child arrangements should be.
The child’s best interests
It is important to remember that when a Court is investigating any issues relating to children, the judges’ most paramount consideration will always be that of the child’s welfare and what is best for them.
Specialist family solicitors
If you are looking for legal advice about arrangements for your children, our friendly team of expert family solicitors are on hand to help.
The GL Law Family Team are currently offering a Free Discovery Call to help you to find out where you stand legally and to provide advice on your next best steps. To contact our team today, please call 0117 906 9400 or email email@example.com