Step 2) Apply For Child Arrangements Order
You should apply to the designated family centre, which is usually the one which is nearest the child, and there is a fee of £253.
The application is made using form C100 'Application under the Children Act 1989 for a residence, contact or other section 8 order'. The party making the application (the 'applicant') must complete the form by setting out some basic details of the parties and the children, what order or orders are being sought, and why. Once the form has been completed, it should be filed with the court, together with a copy for the other party and the court fee. Note that the C100 form has now changed, and now incorporates the FM1 form, which must be signed and completed by a mediator. You are also advised to attach a parenting plan to your C100. You must make sure your paperwork is in order, otherwise the case will not be issued by the Court. The court will then issue the application, fix a first hearing date and return one copy of the application, together with a notice of proceedings form and an acknowledgement form, to the applicant. The applicant must then send all three documents to the other party (the 'respondent'), and file a statement of service form with the court confirming when and where the documents were sent. The respondent should complete the acknowledgement form stating whether they intend to oppose the application, file it with the court and send a copy to the applicant.
The First Hearing
The first hearing will usually be a short ‘directions’ appointment, where the court will want to find out what the issues are and will decide how the matter will proceed (see step 3). Most courts will also be expecting the parties to be interviewed together by a CAFCASS officer, before going in front of the district judge or magistrates’ clerk. The CAFCASS officer will ask both parties what the issues are and will find out if the issue can be resolved by agreement, either with the CAFCASS officer or through mediation (see step 1). Sometimes, a partial agreement can be reached, for example a temporary agreement for the children and then going back to court at a later date to see how that arrangement has worked. The CAFCASS officer will report to the district judge or magistrates’ clerk before both parties are called into court.
If the parties have reached an agreement, then the court will decide if an order should be made (see the ‘no order principle’ under step 1). If it is a complete agreement, then the proceedings will end there but either party can go back to court if the agreement breaks down or needs to be changed. To see what happens if no agreement is reached, see step 3.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, unless there is a good reason why not, such as domestic violence.
What if my spouse fails to appear at the first hearing?
Provided that it is satisfied that your spouse has received notice of the application, then the court may proceed in their absence.
Useful resources for this step