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Child Orders

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An overview of Children Orders in England and Wales
Application for Residence or Contact Order

Residence Order states who the child is to live with

Contact Order states how often and the terms of contact with a parent who does not live with that child

Applicant serves copy of application on each respondent, notice of application and blank acknowledgement at least 14 days prior to hearing

First Directions hearing (normally conciliation application)

Conciliation Appointment is an opportunity to reach agreement

If agreement cannot be reached at Conciliation Appointment. Usually both parties have to file statements regarding the children and a Cafcass Officer (formerly a Court Welfare Officer) will be ordered to file a report setting out in their opinion where the children's interests are best served. In most parts of the Country this process takes 12 weeks or more. The Court can make a preliminary decision if the matter is urgent and the child is at some risk. If agreement still cannot be reached after the report, the matter is then heard by the Judge.

The Judge/Court/Cafcass Officer uses a checklist of things to consider when dealing with applications. The checklist is:
  • the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  • his/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • the likely effect on her of any change in her/his circumstances;
  • his/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of her/his which the court considers relevant;
  • any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs

Other Orders include Specific Issue Orders (e.g. directions for determining a specific question related to parental responsibility) and Prohibited Steps Orders (which have the effect of restraining the actions of person in relation to a child).

Although it is possible to conduct your own divorce (see DIY divorce pages) when there are complications in respect of finances or orders related to children, it is recommended that legal advice be taken.