The breakdown of a relationship can be difficult for everyone, particularly where children are involved. The welfare of a child is paramount and therefore it is important to focus on children, whether it be in terms of their safety and wellbeing or maintaining the relationship that they have with both parents. Parents can sometimes disagree on the arrangements in relation to, for example where a child might live, when the child will see or visit the other parent or if there is an important decision which has to be made in respect of the child. If there is a dispute the court may be asked to determine what is in the child’s best interests and decide the issue accordingly.

Parents are encouraged to agree living arrangements but if they cannot then the court may make a Child Arrangements Order.

Child Arrangements Orders include where the child will live, the basis upon which a child will have contact with the other parent, Orders preventing a parent from taking specific steps with regard to a child or Orders dealing with specific issues.

A mother and father with or without parental responsibility can apply for an Order where as non-biological or adopted parents, will need to seek the permission of the court to make an Application for an Order.

Because the welfare of the child is paramount to the court it will, on the making of an Application, refer the case to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to carry out a risk assessment. Once an Application has been made and CAFCASS have undertaken a risk assessment then the court may require a court hearing to determine any issues before the case proceeds to a final hearing at which time the court will consider all the evidence before making a final decision.

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