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Child Arrangements Orders – when do they end?

Child Arrangements Orders specifying where a child lives are legally binding until the child is 18.

But Child Arrangements Orders specifying the time a child spends with a parent is only legally binding until the child reaches 16 – though it is possible to apply for a two-year extension in exceptional circumstances.

Otherwise, after the age of 16 it is up to the child to decide how much contact they would like to have with the parent they do not live with.

The court can consider extending the order until the child’s 18th birthday provided it is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.

Jackie Meredith, Head of Family at Midlands based law firm ORJ, said that this is something that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Jackie said: “Traditionally, the court has been very reluctant to issue court orders beyond the age of 16, but there are circumstances in which an exception really ought to be considered.

“Where it can get complicated and where the court might make an exception is when, for example, there are multiple children in a family at difference ages and orders are becoming extinct at different times.

“In some circumstances, it might not be in the best interests of the children as a collective if some of them are given freedom to see the other parent as much or as little as they want, while the others are still bound under the order.

“This will be particularly relevant if the parent the child does not live with, usually the father, has a record of abusive or manipulative behaviour.

“This is one example of where a court may consider extending the order to the child’s 18th birthday. In every decision, the best interests of the child will be paramount.”

Jackie said without the court order extending to the child reaching 18, the other parent could choose to change their son or daughter’s school at 16 and make other major life decisions, which could be very disruptive for the child.

Jackie added: “The older the children get, the more hesitant the court is to impose an order as teenagers get more independent and have their own ideas about what they want to do, who they want to see and where they want to go. Orders can fail because of this.

“For this reason, it is sometimes best to apply for an exception to extend orders to the 18th birthday as early as possible.

“I recently represented a parent concerning a child who was 11 where the other parent had without any warning moved the child out of the UK without their knowledge and or consent. This would be a case in example of where the court should be asked to consider an extension.”

Jackie has more than 20 years of family law experience. To speak to her about Child Arrangement Orders, call 01785 223440 or email team@orj.co.uk