If you are in the process of separation or divorce, you will need to make arrangements for the children; the court won’t let your divorce or dissolve civil partnerships until you can show that you have arranged things like where the children will live, when they will see the other parent and who will be paying the child maintenance.
You will need to meet with a mediator before you go to court. This is an independent and third party with whom you and your ex will try and find a solution. You will need to fill in a ‘Family Mediation Information and Assessment form’ to show that you have considered it. This can be done by you or your solicitor.
Anyone with parental responsibility, usually the mother or father (but in some cases this may be the grandparents) can apply for a court order.
A Residence Order is used to make a decision on where your children will live. If that’s not with you, a Contact Order is used to decide when you can see the child, for example during holidays and at weekend.
The children’s upbringing can be dealt with using a Specific Issue Order and covers things like which school they go to and whether or not they should have a religious education.
Applying for a Court Order
If you want to apply for a court order, you will need a C100 court form and it will need to be sent you your local county court or family proceedings court for a cost of £215.
After the Court Order
The court will arrange what’s known as a ‘directions hearing’ with the parents during which there will usually be a family court advisor from Cafcass present.
During the hearing, the judge (or magistrate) will try and work out what can and can’t be agreed and if the child is at risk in any way. Where there is no concern for the child or children’s welfare you will be encouraged to make an agreement.
If you are unable to agree at the first court hearing, the judge or magistrate will set a timetable for what happens next. This usually involves two meetings with either a mediator or going on a course – your ex-partner will not attend the same meetings.