If you are unable to reach agreement with your former partner as to the future arrangements for your children, you can apply to the family court for a child arrangements order. This will involve the court hearing ‘evidence’ and a judge deciding what the arrangements for the children are going to be, in other words which parent the children live with and when the children will see the other parent etc. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position where your ex is being unreasonable over access to the children and you want to get the matter resolved, then issuing court proceedings for a child arrangements order is your way forward.
The Court process summarised:
• Pre-action protocol (subject to certain exemptions, you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you can start court proceedings. Further information about MIAM can be found here.
• Issue the court Application by completing Form C100 and paying the court fee of £215.
• After the court has received the application it will usually refer to Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) who will provide the information needed by the court for a safe decision to be made about the arrangements for your children.
• The court will schedule a ‘directions hearing’ to take place which both parents are required to attend. If agreement is reached at this hearing which the court considers to be in the child’s best interests, the court will make a consent order which sets out what you’ve agreed. The court process then ends.
If agreement cannot be reached at the first court hearing, the judge will set a timetable for what happens next which will include a new hearing date several months into the future. There may be several court hearings during the process leading to the final hearing (also known as a trial) which could be listed to last 1, 2, 3 or more days as predetermined by the court.
At the end of the final hearing, the judge will make a final decision on the case and deliver his or her judgement. Copies of the Court Order will be sent to both parties. The case is now concluded although it may remain for the parties to implement all or parts of the order.