A Child Arrangements Order can be applied for when a couple separates and there is a dispute about where a child or children will live. Such an Order is made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
Only some people, however, can apply for a Child Arrangements Order without the Court’s permission.
Who doesn’t require leave of the Court to apply?
Any parent of the child is automatically entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, whether or not they have Parental Responsibility for the child. Any guardian or special guardian of the child can also apply.
Also entitled to apply is any person named in a currently-in-force Child Arrangements Order with respect to the child, as a person with whom the child is to live.
You can also apply without needing to seek the Court’s prior permission, if you are a party in a marriage – whether or not subsisting – in relation to the child. This provision enables step-parents – including those in a civil partnership – to apply, in addition to former step-parents who fulfil the criteria.
The right to apply without leave of the Court is also granted to any person that the child has lived with for at least three years. This period doesn’t need to be continuous, but must not have begun more than five years or ended more than three months before the application.
Nor will you require leave of the Court to apply for a Child Arrangements Order if:
- You have the consent of each person named in such an Order as a person with whom the child is to live
- There is an existing in-force order for care, and you have the consent of each person in whose favour the order was made
- The child is in a local authority’s care, and you have the consent of that authority
- You have had a Child Arrangements Order made in your favour in relation to the ‘contact’ aspects, and the Court has awarded you Parental Responsibility – meaning you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order in relation to the ‘residence’ aspects
- You have, in any other case, the consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility for the child
If you are a local authority foster parent, you will be entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order relating to whom the child is to live with, and/or when the child is to live with any person, if the child has lived with you for a period of at least one year immediately before the application.
Similarly, if you are a relative of the child, you will be entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order relating to whom the child is to live with, and/or when the child is to live with any person, if the child has lived with you for a period of at least one year immediately before the application. For the purposes of this provision, a relative is the child’s grandparent, sister, brother, aunt or uncle.
Who requires leave of the Court to apply?
If you do not meet the above criteria to be entitled to apply without the Court’s permission, you can seek leave of the Court to do so. If leave is granted, this does not necessarily mean the application for a Child Arrangements Order will be successful.
The Court will consider the below factors in deciding whether or not to grant leave:
- The nature of the proposed application for the Order
- The applicant’s connection with the child
- Whether there is a risk of the proposed application disrupting the life of the child to such an extent that it would cause them harm
- In cases where a local authority is looking after the child, what the authority’s plans are for the child’s future, as well as the wishes and feelings of the parents of the child
How Bromfield Legal can help
For further information about Child Arrangements Orders and your entitlement to apply for one, please don’t hesitate to contact our professionals in family law today.
We can help to put your mind at rest about childcare arrangements, whatever your situation, and advise you on the next steps to take.