26 August 2022

Applying for, or amending a child arrangements order

Julie Bailey Partner & Head of Military

The school holidays are almost over and, as a parent or guardian, you may be considering whether to apply for a child arrangements order or to apply for a change to a child arrangements order you have in place.

But what steps do you need to take to make sure this process is handled correctly? And what are the main things you need to consider before making the application?

Our family law partner, Julie Bailey, answers your frequently asked questions on amending a child arrangement order.

What steps should parents/guardians take when amending a child arrangement order?

When the court decides any issue in relation to a child there are various factors that it has to have regard to, but the only one that takes precedence is whether making the order is in the better interests of the child than if the order is not made.

Where a parent is seeking to amend an existing order, this burden can be higher as you need to get over what is known as the “status quo” argument i.e. why shouldn’t things remain as the court previously ordered?

In some circumstances it will be obvious why that cannot happen e.g. if there is any physical or emotional risk to the child if the arrangements are not changed, but in more marginal cases this can be a difficult obstacle to get over.

 If seeking to amend an existing order the applicant needs to think about, and show, why doing so will be for the greater benefit of the child. The applicant must also be ready to address any concerns regarding the effect of the order they are seeking (for example, the need to move home or school, the arrangements for the child or children’s care etc).

What are the main things parents/guardians need to consider before making an application to the court for or to vary a child arrangements order?

The court’s expectation is that mediation will at least be considered as an alternative means of resolving matters.

The applicant will have to at least attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) with a mediator and get a sign off from the mediator to say mediation is not appropriate or that the parties do not wish to mediate before an application to the court can be made.

At the MIAM, the mediator will provide further information about the mediation process to assist the party to decide whether or not mediation is going to be an appropriate forum to try to reach a resolution.

What will the court take into consideration when making a child arrangements order or an application to vary an existing order?

When a court determines any question with respect to the upbringing of a child or the administration of the child’s property or the application of any income arising from it, the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.

In deciding the most appropriate course to take in relation to the child’s welfare under S1 Children Act 1989, the factors that will be taken into account by the court, in addition to the overriding consideration to only make an order if it is in the better interests of the child to do so, are:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child concerned (in light of their age and understanding)

  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs

  • The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances

  • The child’s age, sex, background and any relevant characteristics

  • Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering

  • The capabilities of each of the parents, and any other relevant person, in meeting the child’s needs

  • The range of powers available to the court

Why is it important to seek expert advice from a solicitor when amending a child arrangement order?

Any court process can be overwhelming, but even more so when it relates to your child.

An experienced family law solicitor will be able to guide you through what can be a very emotional process. They will also bring their knowledge of the court process and the terminology the court uses.

It is highly likely a family law solicitor may also have dealt with the same or similar issues previously and can bring an objective and experienced eye to what can be a very emotive situation.

For further guidance on a child arrangements order, please contact Julie Bailey who will be able to advise. Or for any other family related matter please click here to visit our family law page.

Julie Bailey, Wilkin Chapman LLP
Need help?

Contact Julie to discuss this further.

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