Court proceedings for settling issues about children when parents separate
Choices about children when parents separate
Applications may be made to the County Court or the Magistrates’ Court for any or a combination of the following orders:
Child arrangements order (to confirm who a child should live with or otherwise have contact with).
Prohibited steps (for example the child should not be removed from a parent with care or from the country).
Specific issue (over a particular problem such as schooling, medical treatment).
Applications for all of the above options are made on standard forms (Form C100 and C1A if applicable) available from the courts or online from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Once the application has been issued it will be served on the other parent. A date will then be set for you to go to court. This is likely to be an appointment to see if mediation can help you.
If mediation is not appropriate, then the District Judge or Magistrates will say what is to happen next. You will each usually file statements explaining your situation and saying what you want to happen.
Often, an officer of CAFCASS (Children And Family Court Advisory And Support Service) will be asked to see the children and you and file a report. It often takes about 3-4 months for the report, usually making recommendations regarding the arrangements for the children. It often takes about 3-4 months for the report to be ready.
A further date will be set for the Judge to consider whether the case is ready for trial and give further directions if necessary. A date will be set for the case to be dealt with by the court. The whole process from beginning to end can take many months. A solicitor’s help will usually be necessary.
The Court may make orders about child arrangements, contact or other issues. However, under the Children Act, the Court is not supposed to make orders as a matter of routine, but only if it is really necessary.
The main factor influencing the Court during proceedings will be the child’s welfare. You may find it helpful to look at the Welfare Checklist to which the Court and the officer of CAFCASS will refer when considering the issues.
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