Up until the Children Act 1989 came into force Orders were made for custody and access in all cases of separating parents – these were renamed under the Children Act Orders for ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ and by the Children and Families Act 2014 child arrangement orders. Parliament also introduced the ‘no Order’ presumption by handing back to parents the responsibility to decide which parent should have day to day care of the child and how frequently they should spend time with the other parent.
There is now a presumption in law pursuant to section 11 of that Act that a child will benefit from time spent with the other parent. Most couples are able to decide this by agreement. For those who cannot, an Application can be made to the Court under Section 8 of the Children Act. The Court has power when making any Section 8 Order to make Orders for Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps Orders.
Specialists in child arrangement orders
Specific Issue Applications are more rare but may be encountered in the context of choice of school, medical treatment, religious upbringing or the provision, removal or retention of Passports. In the case of Prohibited Steps Orders there may be orders preventing the removal of children from a particular area of the country, from the care of a particular individual or preventing removal from the jurisdiction.
In all cases of Applications issued now in the UK for Child Arrangement Orders the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will undertake safeguarding checks with the Police and Social Care to ensure that the Court is aware of any information involving the parties and the children, which might affect the welfare of the children. For these reasons the first Hearing of a Children Act Application (FHDRA) will not be listed for six weeks.
Children are rarely required to attend Court in connection with such Applications although it is likely that the children’s wishes and feelings will be ascertained at some stage. The older the child, the more relevant his or her wishes or feelings will be to the recommendations that the Child and Family Reporting Officer will make to the Court.