When you got married to your former spouse and had a child or children with them, chances are that you didn’t think you would divorce and need to discuss who had custody of the children.

And, it can be worrying during the divorce when the words’ child arrangement orders’ appear in the proceedings.

Child Arrangement Orders (CAOs) are a legal means by which separated or divorced parents can determine the arrangements for their children’s upbringing. This is a complex and emotionally charged issue, and it is important for parents to understand the ins and outs of CAOs before embarking on the legal process.

When you come to see our team at Prentice Family Law, our divorce solicitors Weybridge will always aim to make the process of separating from your former partner as easy as possible and will ensure that you are well-advised on the process and what to expect.

So, with that in mind, what do our divorce solicitors Weybridge think you need to know about a CAO? Read on to find out.

They aren’t just for legal disagreements

First and foremost, our divorce solicitors Weybridge want to make it crystal clear that CAOs are not just for parents who are in disagreement about custody arrangements. They are also for parents who want to formalize their agreements about their children’s living arrangements, access and time spent with each parent, or for those who are not married or in a civil partnership but want to establish parental rights and responsibilities.

A CAO isn’t about you

In the UK, the legal framework for CAOs is found in the Children Act 1989, which stipulates that the court should consider the best interests of the child relating to their living arrangements. This means that the court will take into account factors such as the child’s age, their relationships with each parent, their educational needs, and any other relevant considerations.

You will be assessed

When considering a CAO, parents must be aware that the court will not automatically favour one parent over the other. Instead, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child. In many cases, this will involve a shared care arrangement where the child spends time with both parents. However, if one parent has been found to be abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unsuitable, the court may grant full custody to the other parent.

It is also important for parents to understand that the court will not take sides in any dispute between the parents. Instead, the court will remain impartial and will only make decisions based on the best interests of the child.

Resolution is a better option

Before applying for a CAO, parents must first attempt to resolve their disputes through mediation or other forms of dispute resolution. This is a requirement of the Children and Families Act 2014, which aims to promote cooperative parenting and minimise the need for court intervention.

Either parent can apply for a CAO

If mediation is unsuccessful, either parent can apply to the court for a CAO. This involves completing an application form and paying a fee. The court will then schedule a hearing, where both parents will have the opportunity to present their case.

Parents should be aware that the court process can be lengthy, and it is often better to try and come to an agreement outside of court. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, a CAO may be the only way to establish the legal arrangements for a child’s upbringing.