Child custody arrangements are a critical aspect of family law proceedings, particularly when parents are separating or divorcing.
It is a topic charged with emotion and concern as both parents typically want what is best for their child.
The paramount consideration is the welfare of the child and the courts always seek to promote this in their decisions.
What are child arrangements?
Previously termed ‘custody’ or ‘contact’ in legal jargon, the term ‘child arrangements’ was introduced in 2014 to shift the focus away from perceived parental rights to a more child-centred perspective. Orders are now expressed as “Live With” orders and “Spend Time With” Orders.
Child Arrangements Order
In situations where parents can’t agree on these matters, they might seek a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ from the court.
This order will officially set out where the child will live, when they will spend time with each parent and what other forms of contact will take place (such as phone or video calls).
The principle of the child’s best interests
Central to any decision made regarding child arrangements is the principle of the ‘child’s best interests’.
The court will always prioritise the child’s welfare above all else. To do this, they consider the ‘welfare checklist’, which includes:
Before applying for a child arrangements order, it’s mandatory for most people to attend a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
This is to see if mediation could resolve the issues without going to court. Mediation encourages communication and can often lead to amicable solutions.
The role of CAFCASS
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) plays a crucial role in child arrangements.
They may be called in to assess the situation, ensuring the child’s welfare is central to any decisions.
They can interview parents, children, and other relevant parties and then provide recommendations to the court.
The UK recognises the importance of both parents playing an active role in a child’s life, where it is safe and in the child’s best interests.
Shared parenting doesn’t necessarily mean equal time with both parents, but it signifies the equal importance of both parents in the child’s life.
Seeking legal advice
Navigating child arrangements during a divorce or separation can be complex.
Obtaining legal advice ensures clarity, understanding of parental rights and expert guidance in complex situations.
A family law solicitor can offer objective insights and provide legally sound documentation.
It is crucial to always prioritise your child’s well-being over personal agreements.
For more advice on child arrangements, get in touch with our expert team today.