What is a Child Arrangements Order?

Custody, residence, contact, visitation, access….

These terms are all now incorporated into a Child Arrangements Order.

If parents separate and no agreement is reached in respect of their child(ren) the first option should be mediation. If mediation is unsuitable or fails then an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order can be made.

A Children Arrangement Order is a court order which regulates (a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and (b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person. A CAO can

  1. Name who the child lives with, or
  2. Name two people who live in the same house together as persons with whom the child lives (e.g. parent and step-parent), or
  3. Name two people who live separately as persons with whom the child lives – effectively a shared care arrangement. The order will specify the time the child will live in each household and this does not have to be equal.

If there is a dispute about the time a child spends with the other parent or another relative, then an application can be made for a CAO to settle contact arrangements. This can include

  1. Direct contact – when and where the child will spend time with their parent and how often, and
  2. Indirect contact – letters, skype, email and telephone

The court will not make an Order unless it is in the child’s best interests to do so. If parents agree where the child should live and when they should have contact then an application to the court may be unnecessary.

For straightforward advice about Child Arrangement Orders contact our expert team of family lawyers.


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