Many separated families find that agreed arrangements for contact and other child matters need constant review, often being tweaked and changed to reflect the changing dynamic of the separated family unit. Often these types of variation can be relatively small, such as the location or time for collection or drop off. However, there are occasions when a variation cannot be agreed between the parents and a court order is required.
The court’s powers to provide child arrangement orders (CAO) or vary them are dealt with under ss. 8 – 10 of the Children Act 1989. The court is duty bound to consider the welfare checklist in determining any order or variation of an existing CAO. The checklist is found in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989 and includes:
- Physical, emotional and educational needs of the child.
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances.
- Age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant.
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
- How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs.
- The range of powers available to the court under the 1989 Act.
In discussing issues relating to the children, it is always useful to consider the factors set out in the checklist, to crystallise your approach in relation to the child. The factors should always be considered when assessing matters concerning the child, including matters both big and small, e.g. where the children live, what contact they might have with the non-resident parent, schooling provision, medical treatment etc.
If a proposed variation to arrangements cannot be agreed, a court application may be required, although mediation/MIAM and other forms of dispute resolution should be considered in the first instance.
If you would like to discuss issues relating to your children following the breakdown of your relationship, contact one of our expert family solicitors today on 01234 88977 or 0207 177 9777 for a free consultation. Serving rural and central Bedford, together with the City of London, our lawyers can help you with all your family law matters.