This page is about Child Arrangements Orders that determine who a child should live with. If you’re looking for Child Arrangements Orders regarding contact with a grandchild you have lost contact with, click here.
A Child Arrangements Order is a legal order where the court decides either where a child will live or who a child can spend time with and for how long. We’ll be talking about the first kind, which establishes who the child will live with. These used to be called Residence Orders.
With a Child Arrangements Order parental responsibility is again shared. A person with whom a child lives is given the authority by the court to make the day to day decisions for the child (for example whether the child should go on a school outing), but does not allow him or her to exclude other people with parental responsibility from big decisions in the child’s life. It lasts until the child turns 18 unless the court states otherwise.
In most cases you have to attend a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to assess whether mediation may be a suitable way of resolving your case before you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order.
When the court is deciding whether to grant a Child Arrangements Order, the child’s welfare is its primary consideration. It has to follow the ‘welfare checklist’, which covers lots of points including the child’s wishes and feelings, their needs and the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances. The court will usually ask either the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (CAFCASS) or children’s services to prepare a welfare report. You can apply through a solicitor, or apply yourself as a ‘litigant in person’. It’s worth checking whether legal aid is available in your case.
Once you’ve got your Child Arrangements Order, there’s no additional entitlement to support, although you will be able to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits if applicable. Local authorities have the power to pay an allowance to a carer with a Child Arrangements Order. This is more likely to be paid if the child was previously looked after by the local authority, but even then there is no automatic entitlement.
Applying for a Child Arrangements Order is a big decision, and you should never feel under any pressure to apply unless it’s the right thing for you and the child. It’s important to get independent advice before applying so you can be sure you’re making the right choice. Living with relatives can be a great option for children who can’t live with their parents, as it gives them a stable home and links to their birth family, but every case is different and there are many factors to consider. For advice and information on becoming a kinship carer or the different legal arrangements, please contact our advice service on 0300 033 9853 Monday to Friday 9.30am – 2pm.