The new child arrangements orders: what are the changes?

black and white photo of a couple holding a baby

The definitions of “residence” and “contact”, which did away with the terms “custody” and “access”, have now been replaced by a “child arrangements order”.

black and white photo of a couple holding a babyWhat is a Child Arrangements Order?

It is an order regulating arrangements relating to when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

In many cases, the distinction between contact and residence will remain, but the new language now reflects that the order in question will be a specific type of child arrangements order.

The Child Arrangements Programme 2014 came into force on 22 April 2014; it applies whenever there is a dispute in relation to arrangements concerning children. It is designed to assist families in reaching safe and child-focused arrangements wherever possible outside of the court setting. Where that is not possible, it aims to resolve a dispute in a way so as to avoid delay.

Any contact or residence order made prior to 22 April 2014 will take effect as a child arrangements order, so there is no need to reapply.

So, what has changed?

The recent changes to the law now mean that prior to making any application for a Child Arrangements Order, the intended applicant must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), or alternatively a MIAM exemption must be demonstrated. The purpose of a MIAM is to provide the applicant with information about the use of mediation as an alternative method of resolving disputes without recourse to court proceedings.

The emphasis more than ever before is on parents agreeing arrangements for their children, and avoiding where at all possible, the court process.

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Who can apply for the order?

The child’s parent, guardian or anyone with parental responsibility can apply without the court’s permission. There are also other circumstances in which a person may be able to apply without the court’s permission.

For all other people, such as grandparents, the court’s permission is required before an application can be made.

The Lester Aldridge family team deal with these and other issues on a regular basis and are frequently instructed by clients with disputes relating to the arrangements for their children.

lester-aldridge-logoIf you would like to discuss any aspect of divorce, separation or wish to protect your assets prior to getting married, contact the family team on 01202 786161 or email

About Lester Aldridge LLP

Lester Aldridge LLP is a nationally recognised law firm with offices in London, Bournemouth and Southampton. The family team are leaders in their field. Jane, Jo and Rosie are specialist family solicitors with a wealth of experience in all areas of family law from divorce to children, prenuptial agreements to the settlement of financial disputes and everything in between. These women are feisty when they need to be. But their approach is designed to reduce conflict in order to ensure the best possible outcome. They recognise that family issues can be extremely emotional and they offer access to specialist advice delivered in a friendly, approachable and understandable way designed to guide you from start to finish. If you would like an informal, no-obligation chat with Jane, Jo or Rosie please telephone 03300 539754.