Can You Change a Child Arrangement Order?
It isn’t uncommon for family law solicitors to be consulted about changing a child arrangement order. In this article, our family lawyers look at how you go about applying to change a child arrangement order.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors
What does your child arrangement order say?
The first step is to check the wording of your existing child arrangement order to check to see if the order does need changing by the family court. For example, the child arrangement order may already say that the children should spend half their school holidays with you but you may have forgotten the wording because you were never previously able to have the children for half the holidays because of your work commitments. Alternatively, if the court order says the children live with you then you do not need to apply back to court for an order to take your children overseas on holiday provided that your planned holiday is for less than 4 weeks.
Not every child arrangement order wording is easy to understand. In addition, the wording of some orders can be interpreted in different ways. If you are at all uncertain about the wording of your child arrangement order and what it means then call our specialist family law solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.
Do you need to apply to the court to vary a child arrangement order?
You do not necessarily have to make an application to the court to vary a child arrangement order. Family law solicitors can advise you on whether an application is necessary. For example, the other parent may agree to additional contact so the children can see you on your birthday or so the children can see your extended family when they are visiting the UK from overseas. If everything is agreed you may be able to record the agreed ‘extras’ in family law solicitor’s correspondence or in emails and text messages exchanged directly between you.
If you agree to make changes to a child arrangement order but do not record the agreement in writing then you will have difficulty in proving the amendments were agreed upon. Family law solicitors recommend care is taken with the wording of any agreement to make it clear if extra contact is a one-off agreement rather than say annual extra contact on a parent’s birthday or when overseas relatives are visiting the UK.
Family mediation to help agree on changes to a child arrangement order
If you are struggling to agree on changes to a child arrangement order then a referral for family mediation may help you break a deadlock. A family mediator is impartial and their role is to help facilitate an agreement. Your family law solicitor can support the mediation process by providing you with family law legal advice on your court-based options and likely outcomes. That way you know if the proposals suggested in mediation would be viewed as reasonable by the court if you chose to start contested court proceedings.
If you are able to reach an agreement in mediation your family lawyer can apply to the court to vary the child arrangement order by agreement. If you are unable to reach a mediated agreement then your family law solicitor can apply to the court to vary the child arrangement order.
The importance of an agreement or varied court child arrangement order
You may think that you do not want to go to the expense of a court application or that you cannot be bothered to try and talk to your ex-partner about changing contact times because they always say no to any suggestion you make. Alternatively, you may think family mediation will be a waste of time because it did not work for you the last time you tried it to reach a divorce financial settlement.
Whilst you may have many reasons not to want to talk to your ex-partner or not to want to apply to the court to change the current child arrangement order it is important that you do so rather than unilaterally changing the parenting arrangements. That’s because:
- Your ex-partner could apply to the family court to enforce the child arrangement order
- You could be found to be in breach of the court order because you did not reach an agreement on changes to the order or get court permission to change the existing child arrangement order
- Your ex-partner could decide that they want to make changes to the current child arrangement order prompted by your breach of the order. The court might side with their case especially if you breached the order rather than take the proper route of reaching an agreement or making an application to the court to vary the existing child arrangement order
Court applications to change a child arrangement order
If you want to apply to the family court to change a child arrangement order it is best to talk to a family law solicitor before starting the court proceedings. A family lawyer may advise you that you stand a significant risk of either not being successful in your variation application or that your ex-partner might succeed in their own cross-application to vary the order. It is best to get expert legal advice so you know the pros and cons of your proposed application.
If the court is asked to decide an application to change a child arrangement order the court will base their decision on what order they think is in the best interests of your child after taking into account a range of factors, referred to as the welfare checklist. One of those factors is your child’s wishes and feelings. Those wishes are assessed in light of the child’s age and understanding.
How the family lawyers at OTS Solicitors can help you
If you are not sure about your children law rights or uncertain about whether to agree to a change in parenting arrangements or want to apply to vary a current court order then our children law experts can help you with specialist legal advice and representation in children law proceedings.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors