28th February 2020
What is a Child Arrangements Order (CAO)
A Child Arrangements Order (CAO) is an order granted by the court following an application by one of the parents or guardians of a child. The order will set out who a child will live with and the arrangements for the child to spend time with another person (usually a parent). The child’s best interests are always at the forefront of the court’s decision making.
Do I really need one?
If you are struggling to agree on issues surrounding your child or the relationship between the parties is fraught, you can apply to the court for a CAO.
Who can apply?
- Anyone with Parental Responsibility of the child
- Guardians/Special Guardians
If you are not sure if you can apply, please call us on 020 3475 4321.
Before applying for a CAO you will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), unless an exemption applies. You will speak with a mediator, who is an independent person that is there to help you reach an agreement in order to resolve the dispute without going to court and will give you information about mediation. If the mediator does not think that mediation will not help you to resolve the dispute or is not appropriate due to a history of domestic abuse, the next step will be to apply to court for a CAO.
Applying to the Court
The court application fee is £215 (as at 5.2.2020); this does not include Solicitors fees.
Once the court receives your application, the first hearing will be set; This is a directions hearing known as a FIRST HEARING DISPUTE RESOLUTION or FHDRA and both parties must attend.
Before the FHDRA the parties will have a telephone conversation with CAFCASS before CAFCASS prepare a short welfare report that also includes details they receive from the Police and social services. A duty officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Officer is also present at this hearing and you will have a chance to discuss any issues of your case. The CAFCASS officer will also encourage you to reach an agreement and will tell the judge what has been agreed.
If an agreement is reached at the FHDRA, it can be confirmed in a court order. If a long-term agreement has not been reached at the FHDRA, then a second hearing will be listed. The second hearing is known as the Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA).
Prior to the DRA hearing, CAFCASS will carry out further enquiries including meetings with both parties, visits to the home and a meeting with the child (often at school). CAFCASS will then prepare a section 7 report and make recommendations in order to assist the court in making a decision in the best interests of the child. If there has been recent social services involvement with the family, the court sometimes asks the social services to prepare the report instead of CAFCASS
The parties are also likely to be asked by the judge at the FHDRA to prepare and sign witness statements which would have to be sent to the court, CAFCASS and the other party before the next hearing.
If a long-term agreement is not reached at the DRA, the matter will go to a Final Contested Hearing where a Judge will look at all evidence and make an order in the best interests of the child. The parties often have to give evidence in the witness box at a contested final hearing to answer questions about their witness statements.
Factors the court will consider
The court will consider a range of factors including:
- The wishes and feelings of a child
- The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs
- If the child has suffered any abuse or neglect or is in danger of doing so in the future
- The ability of the parents to meet the child’s needs
- The effect that an order may have on the child
Contact us today on 020 3475 4321 .
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