Frequently Asked Questions
If the arrangements for the children cannot be agreed, you can issue an application with the Court for a Child Arrangements Order.
A Child Arrangements Order is an Order setting out the arrangements for your child – where they should live and how their time should be shared.
The Court’s priority is the welfare of the child. It works on the assumption that it is in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with and be allowed to enjoy spending regular time with both parents.
There are typically three hearings in Private Children Act cases:-
- First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) – for the Court to consider what steps need to be taken so that it has all of the information that it needs to ensure any Orders made are in the best interest of the children.
- Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRA) – to allow the parties the opportunity to explore whether matters can be agreed consensually
- Final Hearing – where, after hearing evidence, the Court will make an Order deciding the arrangements for the children.
In all cases, the Court is assisted by Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) to ascertain any safeguarding or welfare concerns.
Prior to the FHDRA, Cafcass contacts both parents to ascertain the issues between them and complete safeguarding checks with the Police and Children’s Services.
If there are no safeguarding concerns, Cafcass will not be involved after this initial stage.
If it is considered necessary, Cafcass can be directed by the Court to complete a section 7 report.
The purpose of the section 7 report is to provide an independent overview of background information, key facts and evidence that the children’s needs have been considered in accordance with the welfare checklist which guides the Court. It also enables the wishes and feelings of the children (so far as they are ascertainable) to be taken into consideration by somebody independent.
The court process encourages and promotes negotiation and discussion. The DRA provides parties with the opportunity of considering the Section 7 report and recommendations and to explore whether any arrangements can be agreed without the need for a contested hearing.
If, within the Children Act proceedings, either party pursues allegations against the other
which are not admitted, the Court may consider a finding of fact hearing is necessary.
A fact-finding hearing is where the Court considers the evidence surrounding allegations.
Most commonly, allegations concern physical harm to the child/children and domestic abuse,
which can include coercive controlling behaviour and emotional as well as physical abuse.
The Court must consider the allegations made by each side, and it is for the person making the allegations to prove that they are true.
Consideration as to whether a fact find hearing is necessary will be given at the FHDRA and prior to any section 7 report (if directed).
The welfare of a child is paramount for the court when deciding any issue.
The law does not automatically favour one parent over the other and focuses upon a parent’s responsibilities to their child, rather than their “rights”. It presumes that it is in the best interests of a child for both parents to be involved in their lives, unless that would place them at risk.
The wishes and feelings of your child is a factor the court will consider but is generally not the determinative factor.