Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Children should reside with a parent/share residence with both parents such that the child’s interest is served best, not that of the parent.
Historically (and even now at times) the words Child Custody / Residence Order / Contact Order was used frequently. However, in England and Wales now the Court Application and the Court Order is now referred to as Child Arrangement’s Order.
The process of getting a Child Arrangement Order (depending on case to case basis) involves many steps and raises the question:
How to get custody of my child?
The Court has the power to determine with which parent a child should live and how much time a child is to spend with each parent. This is called the Child Arrangement Order.
There is an assumption that it is in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents. The Court does not like parents struggling for power over the “label” of who the child should be living with.
Subject to any safeguarding concerns, the Court will be looking to reintroduce regular times so that the bond between you and the children can be developed and maintained. If the Father / Mother raises ant safeguarding concerns then you will have to address those safeguarding concerns.
You and your Ex share parental responsibility and the parent with present care should not have taken any steps to unilaterally suspend the time that the children spend with you. Your Ex has not provided you with a continued regular contact opportunity and it may not be seen positively by the courts if it goes to evidence and her concerns are proved to be false.
What are safeguarding checks?
Before any Child Arrangement Orders can be made, the Court needs to have received completed safeguarding checks from Cafcass (Child and Family Court Advisory Support Service). All applications are referred to Cafcass, who then contact the parties to ascertain
the issues in dispute and make enquiries of the police and social services to see whether the family is known to other agencies.
Cafcass will then file a safeguarding letter with the Court setting out the outcomes of those checks and highlighting the issues that will need to be determined by the Court (if you cannot agree) along with their guidance as to how the case should proceed.
How long does it take to go to court for child access?
The Court Process
If Domestic Violence allegations are not involved then typically three court hearings in private Children Act proceedings:
What is a First Dispute Resolution Hearing?
1. First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA).
This is a routine directions appointment where the Court considers the safeguarding information from Cafcass and how matters should proceed.
Once your application has been issued your case will be listed for FHDRA within four to six weeks. Your attendance at Court will be required.
Given the concerns that you set out I anticipate that Cafcass will want to complete a Section 7 report and the court may Order so.
Section 7 reports set out background information, key facts and evidence that the children’s needs have been considered in accordance with the welfare check list.
The purpose of the Section 7 report is to provide an independent valuation and assessment of the issues the Court needs to determine and report the findings to the Court. It will also advise the Court as to the children’s wishes and feelings and what they consider to be in the best interests of them. Whilst not binding, the recommendations of Cafcass are extremely persuasive.
What is Dispute Resolution Hearing?
2. Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA).
The purpose of the DRA is to allow you and your ex-partner the opportunity to consider the recommendations of Cafcass and explore whether there is a possibility of agreeing on matters consensually.
In the event you are unable to agree, your case will be listed for final hearing.
What happens in the Final Court Hearing?
3. Final Hearing
At the final hearing the Court, upon hearing evidence from the parties, will determine the appropriate arrangements for the children and impose an Order. Most cases settle prior to a Final Hearing.
Hope this helps.
This post is not, and should not be taken as legal advice.