Child Arrangements Orders by Consent

It is increasingly common for parties following a separation to reach their own agreement regarding the time any children should spend with each parent or which parent any child/children should live with.

Such informal agreements are not automatically legally binding and either party could breach the terms leaving the other parent with little recourse to enforce the agreement reached.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may be advisable to formalise the terms of the agreement in a Consent Order. Once such an Order is sealed by the court, it is enforceable through the family court if either party breaches the terms.

What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is a legal document which sets out the terms of the agreement reached between the parties, in this case, regarding with whom the child/children of the parties should live or spend time with.

What is the procedure to make my agreement legally binding?

A Consent Order should be drafted by your Solicitor setting out all the terms of the agreement reached. It should be comprehensive and include:

  • Where any children of the parties will live – if there is to be a shared care arrangement, the times and dates for any handovers should be specified;
  • All forms of contact any child/children will have with each parent including telephone contact;
  • All holiday contact including Christmas, all school holidays and half terms;
  • You may wish to specify arrangements regarding each parent taking the children abroad on holiday and any conditions attached to this.

Both parties will need to sign the Consent Order.

You/Your Solicitor can then lodge the Consent Order at court along with a completed form C100 and the requisite court fee.

Do I need to attend a MIAM?

Usually, parties are required to attend a MIAM (mediation, information and assessment meeting) when a court application is made. However, there is no such requirement when a Consent Order for a Child Arrangements Order is lodged at court.

What happens once the Consent Order is lodged at court?

Once the documents are lodged at court, it will be placed before a Judge for approval. There isn’t usually a court hearing.

You can expect the Judge to approve the Consent Order provided the Judge considers the terms to be fair and in your child/children’s best interests.

The court may also consider whether the child/children have suffered or at risk of suffering abuse/neglect.

If the Judge considers that the terms of the Consent Order may not be fair or in the child/children’s best interest, the Judge may amend the Consent Order or in some cases, the court may list a hearing and both parties will then need to attend the hearing.

In cases where the Consent Order is approved, it will be sealed by the court and is then enforceable in the event one of the parents breaches the terms.

A Child Arrangements Order ( made by consent or otherwise) may also be useful evidence of the arrangement regarding the children for example if a parent needs to provide evidence to the child’s school or to the child maintenance service regarding a child maintenance calculation.

If you need advice regarding a Child Arrangements Order, negotiating child arrangements following a separation or applying for a Consent Order, please contact Ms Tayo Taylor at tayo.taylor@mhhplaw.com