In the first instance, you should endeavour to agree childcare arrangements with your spouse, if you can.If you are unable to reach an agreement between yourselves, then you will both need to attend mediation. Once you have an agreement, you can have this written up into a Parenting Agreement. A Parenting Agreement is not a legal contract and it isn't intended to be enforced by a court. In fact, it is intended to help separated parents stay out of court by encouraging them to make practical and workable arrangements for their children by themselves. it will give both parents a valuable opportunity to sit down and discuss how you both would like your children to be raised post-separation and give you both the chance to discuss your children and their upbringing, and covers all aspects to the children’s lives. A Parenting Agreement demonstrates a willingness to co-operate and agree between the parents.
If you are not able to agree childcare arrangements with your spouse or partner, then you or your spouse/partner will have to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, whereby the court will decide the arrangements. A Child Arrangements Order will state with whom the child concerned is to live, when the child is to live with any person, and the party with whom the child visits or otherwise has contact. Before the application on a C100 form can be submitted to the Court, you will need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting with a mediator, who will assess as to whether or not you are both suitable for mediation. The mediator will sign the appropriate part in the C100 form, and once it's fully completed you can then submit it to Court, along with a court fee of £215. The parent making the application is known as the applicant, the other parent is known as the respondent.
Once an application to the court has been made then, unless agreement is reached, a full investigation will take place. This usually involves each party (and any witnesses they intend to call) filing a written statement, and the court appointing a CAFCASS officer to investigate and prepare a report for the court. This can involve a number of hearings, and can take a number of months to complete.
Once the investigation has been completed, a final hearing will be fixed when the court will listen to the evidence and, if appropriate, make a Child Arrangements Order.