The definitions of “residence” and “contact”, which did away with the terms “custody” and “access”, have now been replaced by a “child arrangements order”.
What 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.
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.
If 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 firstname.lastname@example.org