Step 4) Obtain Child Arrangements Order
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.
Both parties and (usually) their witnesses must attend the final hearing to give oral evidence to the court, and to be cross-examined by the other party or their representative (and to answer any questions from the judge/magistrates). If the court considered it appropriate (usually after one party has asked for it), it may also have ordered the CAFCASS officer to attend the hearing for cross-examination by both parties or their representatives. Note that, as in all court proceedings, there is no requirement to be represented by a lawyer at the final hearing, although obviously it would be advisable.
Once the court has heard all the evidence, it will make its decision as to what orders (if any) it will make. The court should also give reasons for its decision.
Effect of residence orders
As mentioned in Step 1, residence orders do not give that parent any rights or responsibilities in respect of the children over and above the other parent. There is one small exception to this: the parent with a residence order may take the children abroad for less than one month without requiring the written consent of the other parent or a court order.
Enforcement of contact orders
All contact orders made on or after the 8th December 2008 should contain a notice warning of the consequences of failing to comply with it. If it does then if the order is breached by one party the other party may apply to the court for an 'enforcement order', imposing an 'unpaid work requirement' on the person in breach of the contact order, or for an order that the person in breach of the contact order pay financial compensation for any losses that the other party incurred as a result of the failure to comply with the contact order. Applications for enforcement orders are made using Form C79.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do orders last?
Normally until the order is varied by the court, or until the child grows up, unless the court specifies otherwise. If you no longer think that the terms of an order are appropriate, then you may apply back to the court for the order to be varied.
What if the contact order is breached, but it does not contain a warning notice because it was made before 8th December 2008 - can I still apply for an enforcement order?
No, you will first need to apply for a warning notice to be attached to the contact order, using Form C78.
Useful resources for this step
- Wikivorce Library - Children Section
- Form C78 (PDF)
- Form C79 (PDF)