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Sensitive and professional advice to help you make the right child arrangements

Going through a separation or divorce can be a difficult process for the whole family, which can often leave any children in the relationship feeling sad, confused or worried.

At ORJ, we are here to guide you through each step, with the aim of helping you resolve matters amicably. This can include:

  • Help with creating a parenting plan with your partner
  • Assistance in locating a suitable mediation service
  • Drafting a consent order to create a legally-binding child arrangements order
  • Advice on how to resolve matters through the courts if you cannot agree 

Do I have to go through the courts to organise future child arrangements?

The simple answer is no.  The law states that the needs of any children must always be considered first during any relationship breakdown, but this does not mean that the matter must be dealt with through the legal system on every occasion.

If you and your partner can agree to arrangements amicably, and with the best interests of your children in mind, then there is no requirement to involve the courts. You do not need to complete any official paperwork, but you may want to create a parenting plan so that your joint wishes are recorded.

How can mediation help in resolving child arrangements?

At this emotional time, you may need some additional help in reaching an agreement that works for the whole family.  If appropriate, we can refer you to a mediation provider who would be able to offer assistance in seeking to reach an agreement on:

  • Where your children will live
  • How much time they will spend time with each parent
  • Any other types of contact that can take place, such as phone or video calls

Mediation can take place over a number of sessions and, at the end of these sessions, if successful, a document is prepared detailing your joint agreements.

Serious or intentional breaches

If you feel that your ex-partner is refusing to abide by the terms of the child arrangements order, or seeking to make changes without your consent, then you can apply to the court for help in enforcing the order.

The court will consider all the facts to help establish if the breach is regular and intentional, as well as the ongoing needs of the children and their wishes.  At this stage, it may be necessary to conduct a hearing to establish the reasons for the breach and to assess and manage the risks of making a further order. 

An application for enforcement of the order must also be heard by the previously allocated judge, who may require further safeguarding checks from Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. 

If the court agrees that there has been a breach, without a valid reason, then the initial steps would be to consider further mediation between the parents, or a variation in the order that considers the new arrangements required.

However, there can be some more serious consequences for one or both parties, which, depending on the severity of the breach can include:

  • A contact enforcement order or suspended enforcement order 
  • A fine for the parent in breach
  • Compensation for financial loss paid to the other party
  • A short prison sentence for the parent in breach, although this is very rare

Next steps…

We understand that this can be a stressful and difficult time. Our family law solicitors in Stafford, Telford and Birmingham and the surrounding areas can provide both emotional support and practical legal advice to help you in obtaining a child arrangements order.

We also offer a FREE 30-minute consultation to help understand your needs, with no obligation. Get in touch with us or call on: 01785 223440