Residence and Contact orders under section 8 (paragraph 1) of Children Act 1989 were amended by the Children and Families Act 2014 which introduces Child Arrangements Orders in their place. The provisions concerning Child Arrangements Orders came into force on 22 April 2014.
A Child Arrangements Order is indicated to mean an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:-
a) With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;
b) When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
In reality there is little difference between the previously used Residence and Contact Orders and what is now in force. However, the removal of Residence Orders will give less emphasis to the “possession” by the main carer of the child of such an order as the new child arrangements order are far more generic and softer in their language whilst achieving exactly the same result. Furthermore an introduction of a mandatory Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to take place before an application or hearing for both parties looks to promote more amicable and reasoned approach to proceedings. These take place with a third party independent mediator. Should mediation fail, the proceedings will take place and a CAFCASS(Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer is appointment to safeguard the best interests and wishes of the children.
It is unlikely that the introduction of Child Arrangements Orders will in itself lead to less cases coming before family court judges, but it certainly will have a neutralising impact on the perceived importance of holding a Residence Order and place more emphasis on the ensuring the best outcome for the child’s welfare.
Certain categories of people are entitled to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of Children Act 1989 without having to seek permission from the court first. These include: the parent or guardian of a child; any person with parental responsibility; any person who holds a Residence Order in respect of the child; any party to a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family; anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years; anyone who has obtained prior consent of a person who holds a Residence Order, is in care of Local Authority or anyone with parental responsibility for the child.
Other people can also make an application to the court for permission to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order. In deciding whether to give permission the court will take into account several factors, such as:
1. The nature of the application;
2. The applicant’s connection with the child;
3. The risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that they should be harmed by it.
It is via this route that wider family members such as grandparents are able to apply for orders in respect of their grandchildren.
It should be noticed that both Specific Issues Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders are to remain in place.
Prohibited Steps Orders prevent a child’s parents, grandparents or any other named person, from taking certain steps, such as taking a child abroad without first getting the court’s permission or preventing a child receiving medical treatment
Specific Issues Orders set out precisely how a particular matter about the children should be handled such as their schooling , religion, change of name and relocation whether international or within the UK.
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