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Step 4) Obtain Child Arrangements Order

A final hearing will be fixed when the court will listen to the evidence and, if appropriate, make a Child Arrangements Order.
The hearing 
Both parties and more often than not, 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 the judge/magistrates may have. If the court considered it appropriate (usually after one party has requested, it) it could also be ordered that the CAFCASS officer to attend the court hearing for cross-examination by both parties or their representatives. It is important to note that in all court proceedings, there is no requirement to be represented by a lawyer at a final hearing, although it is obviously advisable.
Once the court has heard all the evidence, the court will make is decision as to what orders (if any) the court will make, the court should give reasons for its decision.

Effect of 'Lives Withs' orders 

As mentioned in step 1, the "lives with" element of child arrangements orders do NOT give that parent any rights or responsibilities regarding the children over and above the other parent. There is only one small exemption to this which is the parent with a residence order may take the children abroad for less than one month without needing the written consent of the other parent or a court order.

Enforcement of contact orders 

If the order is breached by on party, the other party may apply to the court for an ‘enforcement order’, on the party breaching the order, or for an order that the party breaching the contact order must pay financial compensation for any losses that the other party may have lost as a result of the failure to comply with the contact order. Applications for the enforcement orders are made using from 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)