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Arrangements for Children

Arrangements for Children

On the breakdown of a relationship, arrangements for any children will need to be agreed.  If parents are unable to agree these arrangements between themselves, an application will need to be made to court for a Child Arrangements Order.

Getting a child arrangement order

After the court process is finalised, the parents will have a clear court order setting out the arrangements for the children; however what happens if those arrangements break down after the order is obtained?

If a parent prevents the other from spending time with the children as set out in the order without real justification, this is a breach of the order. When making a child arrangements order, the courts are required to attach a notice warning of the consequences of failing to comply with it.  The Court has a wide range of powers in the event of a breach taking place without reasonable excuse, and includes:-

  • A variation of the order to reconsider the contact arrangements or where the child should live
  • The making of an enforcement order requiring the parent in breach of the order to undertake unpaid work
  • An order for compensation for financial loss
  • A fine
  • Committal to prison.

Breaching a child arrangement order

If a court is to consider a breach of the order, a party will need to make an application to the court for enforcement. When the court considers whether to make an enforcement order, the court must be satisfied that making the order is necessary and proportionate to the seriousness and frequency of the party breaching the order.

The court will consider:-

  • The reasons for the breach
  • The effect the breach will have on the child
  • The welfare of the child
  • Whether advice from CAFCASS is required on an appropriate way of moving forward.

Concern has however arisen amongst some practitioners that courts are often slow to respond to an application for enforcement and are reluctant to penalise the parent in breach; particularly if the defaulting parent is the one with whom the children live. It is felt that this sends a dangerous message in that court orders are optional not mandatory and that the relationship with the non-resident parent is meaningless.

If you need advice on obtaining a Child Arrangement Order, please talk to one of the family team.