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If you and your child’s other parent are separating or divorcing, you will generally need to put in place new arrangements in respect of how you will care for your child.

If you are able to agree with the other parent how and when you will care for your child, this can be recorded in a parenting plan as an agreement. If that agreement needs to be enforceable, this can be sealed by the court into a binding order.

If you are not able to agree on issues, this can make matters more difficult and you may need help to resolve matters.

The issues that are likely to be a priority to parents include who the child shall live with and how much time they will spend which each parent.

What can be included in a child arrangements order?

A child arrangements order can include details in respect of a range of issues and will be tailored to the needs of your child. Issues that are commonly dealt with include:

  • Who the child will live with
  • How much time they will spend with the other parent and when this will happen
  • What contact the child will have with a parent while they are spending time with the other parent, for example, texts messages, phone calls and emails
  • What will happen in the school holidays

Negotiating the terms of a child arrangements order

If you and your child’s other parent are finding it difficult to agree on issues, an experienced family solicitor may be able to help negotiate an acceptable solution. They will be able to discuss the situation with you and give you some honest advice about what you could expect if the court was asked to intervene. They can enter into correspondence with your child’s other parent’s solicitor to try and negotiate and agree parenting terms.


If you are still unable to come to an agreement, you are usually required to consider mediation as a next step. An experienced family mediator will explain the process to you and you will have the opportunity to consider whether you believe mediation will help you to work with your child’s other parent to make a parenting plan.

If either of you do not want to attend mediation or mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator will provide a certificate confirming that mediation has been considered. This certificate will be required so you can make your application to court.

Asking the court to make a child arrangements order

If you need to go to court to obtain a child arrangements order, the first hearing will be a directions hearing where the court will establish whether any agreement can be reached between the parents and, if not, future hearing(s) will be scheduled.

The court is likely to ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to work with the family to prepare a report for the court and make any recommendations they consider necessary.

Throughout the court process you and the other parent will both have the opportunity to explain to the court what you think is the right arrangement for your child and why. If you and the other parent still cannot agree on what the arrangements should be for your child, the court will list a final hearing where it will make a decision for you.

In making a decision, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child. It will consider the welfare checklist, as follows:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings, taking into account their age and understanding
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on the child of changes in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics
  • Any risk of harm or harm that the child is at risk of suffering
  • The parents’ abilities to meet the child’s needs
  • Any other relevant issues

A family solicitor can advise you on what the court may decide at a final hearing.

A family solicitor can advise you throughout the court process and conduct negotiations on your behalf.


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How we can help

If you need help with a family matter, our team of professionals are here to help you and guide you through the process. 

Lydia Murray is a solicitor in our Family Department , please contact Lydia: [email protected] or call 01392 301097

Wollens has offices in Torquay, Exeter and Barnstaple in Devon.

Lydia Murray – Solicitor, Family Team 

Family Law | Wollens Solicitors