Child Arrangements Orders (CAO)

When a relationship breaks down it is never easy and is often harder when children are involved.

Previously, ‘CAO’s have been known under a number of terms such as custody, access, residence and contact.

These were replaced with child arrangements orders and the main focus is on what is best for the child in question and the need for co-parenting. Co-parenting does not mean equal division of time with each parent, but rather that each parent is involved equally in the child’s life, welfare and upbringing.

A CAO can help to deal with where a child lives and whom they spend time with and this can include grandparents spending time with their grandchild. However for the purposes of this article we shall deal solely with parents or guardians child arrangements.

A CAO remains in force until the child or children turn 16 and until then the parents are responsible for deciding certain aspects of the child’s life.

It’s important throughout the process that the welfare of the child is key. Solicitors and in particular the courts all have a duty to consider the welfare of the child when determining the child arrangements. This is to make sure that the child’s feelings are heard and considered, taking into account their age and understanding, and to ensure that parents are capable of meeting the needs of the child in question.

When disputes arise, it can be difficult to reach agreement as to how and with whom the child or children should live and when they should see each parent so reaching out for legal and professional help can assist with trying to reduce or resolve the issues in dispute between the parties with the hope of reaching agreement without the courts intervention so that a fair decision is made for both the parents and the child or children involved.

Attending court can usually be avoided so along as both parents be able and willing to come to an agreement.

However, if neither parent can agree on which parent the child should live with or how often the child should spend time with the other parent, parents can apply to the court for a CAO. The terms of the CAO are legally binding and can be enforced against a parent that breaches the terms of the CAO.

Before you can apply for a CAO, you will be required to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information Assessment Meeting) unless you meet one of the limited exemptions such as domestic abuse or there is an urgent need.

The MIAM is the initial meeting for parents to discuss the issues in dispute and with the hope of reaching an agreement using the mediation process instead of taking court action.

If both parents cannot agree on the arrangements for their child and have gone through all the necessary steps before applying for a court order, parents can then take the next step in filling in a C100 court form.

If both parents agree without the need to apply for a C100 court order, the process can be as quick as it needs to be. However if parents have made the decision to go to court, it all depends on how quickly parents can come to an agreement, which in some cases could be weeks or months.

If matters progress to a Final Hearing (Trial) and the Court is required to make a decision as the parents are unable to agree, the process could take between 6-18 months.

We at CP Law can help you with children issues that may need to be resolved as you progress through the matter.

For further information please call the family department on 0345 241 3100, email us on or visit and follow us on twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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