Residence/child arrangement order

Apply for a court order

Follow these steps to apply for a court order.

  1. Read guidance CB001 on making an application.
  2. Fill in the C100 court form. You must show you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first – except in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example).
  3. Send the original form and 3 copies of it to the nearest court that deals with cases involving children.

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), your C100 form will be processed faster if you submit it online than if you send it by post.

It costs £215 to apply for a court order.

You may be able to get help with court fees if you’re on benefits or a low income.

After you apply for a court order

The court will arrange a ‘directions hearing’ with both parents if you apply for a court order.

There will usually be a family court adviser from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) at the hearing.

Cafcass will send you information before the hearing – they’ll usually ring you too.

At the hearing, a judge or magistrate will try to work out:

  • what you can agree
  • what you cannot agree
  • if your child is at risk in any way

They’ll encourage you to reach an agreement if it’s in the child’s best interests. If you can, and there are no concerns about the child’s welfare, the judge or magistrate can end the process.

The court will make a consent order which sets out what you’ve agreed, if necessary.

If you cannot agree at the first court hearing

The judge or magistrate will set a timetable for what happens next.

They may ask you to try again to reach an agreement, for example by going to a meeting with a mediator.

They may ask you to on a course if your case is about child arrangements. The course is called a ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’.

You may be offered one or two meetings, depending on the type of programme. Your ex-partner will not be at the same meetings as you.

If you reach an agreement at any stage, the judge or magistrate can stop the process.

If you have or are experiencing domestic abuse from your ex-partner, then please speak with a domestic abuse support service who may offer you support around this process.

Cafcass reports

The court can ask Cafcass to provide a report on your case to help decide what’s best for the child.

The Cafcass officer may ask your child about their feelings. You’ll get a copy of the report when it’s written.

What judges and magistrates consider

They’ll always put the welfare of children first. They will think about the:

  • child’s wishes and feelings
  • child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • effect any changes may have on the child
  • child’s age, gender, characteristics and background
  • possible risk of harm to the child
  • ability of parents to meet the child’s needs
  • orders the court has the power to make

A judge or magistrate will only make an order if they think it’s in the child’s best interests.

If you want to change your application

Use form C2 to change an application that the court is still considering.

The fee depends on what you’re asking the court to do. You pay the court:

  • £155 if you still want the court to decide your case through a court hearing
  • £50 if you and your ex-partner have agreed and you want the court to approve your consent order without a court hearing

Change or enforce an order

You can change an existing court order or consent order. You can also ask a court to enforce an order if your ex-partner is not following it.

If you ask the court to change or enforce an order, you’ll probably have to go to a court hearing. You can usually avoid this if you get help outside of court instead.

Change an order

You can decide to do something different from the court order, if you both agree. But you will not be able to enforce this later on unless you make it legally binding.

Make a change legally binding

If you both agree, you can draft a consent order to cover the new agreement and ask the court to approve it.

If you cannot agree, you can ask a court to decide how to change (‘vary’) the order.

Enforce an order

If your ex-partner is not following the order, you can ask the court to enforce it. Follow these steps.

  1. Fill in form C79 to apply – read guidance CB5 if you need help.
  2. Use form C78 to attach a ‘warning notice’ if your order was made before 8 December 2008. Orders made after this date will already include one.
  3. Send it to the court nearest to you that deals with cases involving children. It costs £215.

The court will look at the facts again to see if anything has changed.

If the court enforces the order

Depending on your situation and what you’ve asked the court to decide they might make:

  • an ‘enforcement order’ – this means your ex-partner has to do between 40 and 200 hours of unpaid work
  • an ‘order for compensation for financial loss’ – this means your ex-partner has to pay back any money you’ve lost because they did not follow the order (for example if you missed a holiday)

You can go back to the court if your ex-partner still does not do as the court ordered.

If the court does not enforce the order

The court might not enforce the existing order if they think that your ex-partner is not following it because:

  • they have a good reason
  • it’s better for your children to do something different

You can go back to the court if you do not agree with their decision or your situation changes.

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