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Do I have to go to Court for Child Arrangements on Divorce?

Depending on your circumstances, you may not even have to go to court if you agree on the following

  • Where your children will live
  • How much time they will spend with each parent
  • How your children are financially supported

Remember: child maintenance is one of the crucial parts of making arrangements for your children upon divorce. Furthermore, please remember that if you are/have been a victim of domestic violence/abuse during your marriage, you might have to involve the court to sort out the Child arrangements.
Alternatively, you can get help from an expert Family lawyer to make your agreement legally binding. We can further offer initial consultancy can apply for the child arrangements order
For immediate consultancy and guidance and further information on how to use Child maintenance services, contact our knowledgeable Family Law Solicitors via 0800 048 7573 or feel free to drop an email at contact@axis.lawyer any time. We look forward to helping you.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A child arrangements order governs the following Child arrangement agreement on the divorce between the parents

  • When one of two divorcing parents can see the child
  • How much time each parent spends with the child
  • With whom a child would live mostly in the future (the resident parent gets to keep the child while the non-resident parent can make contact with the child through formal or informal agreements)
  • Who will pay most of the maintenance service charges?

Overall, the Child agreements order decides how the household will function and where the child’s schooling would be, etc.
Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the Child arrangement order is decided on the basis of the circumstances of the individual family, it’s usually enforced where both divorcing couples disagree on child arrangements on divorce. To remind you, under UK law, the judge will decide which is in the best interest of that particular child to be looked after.

What to do if I don’t agree on everything when making Child Arrangements on Divorce in the UK?

If you don’t agree on everything

In practice, it’s a daunting and challenging experience for one divorcing partner to agree on everything when deciding on the following key aspects:

  • How much time their children will be spending with each parent after their marriage is dissolved
  • How much and who is financially supporting the children after two partners are legally separated
  • Where your child will live

To execute an effective child arrangement on divorce, you can seek help from the following advisory agencies:

  • Citizens Advice
  • Mediator
  • Children and family court advisory and support service (Cafcass)

Apply to a court:

In case you still can’t agree on everything, you still have an option to Apply to a court. Going for this option is especially useful when you have an abusive relationship with your former spouse. You will get legal aid to help you with the court fees.

How to make the Parental Agreement Legally Binding?

Getting ready for the parental agreement on divorce is one of the most formidable challenges couples have to go through. Especially in cases where one of the two parents can’t entirely agree on specific child arrangements. Nevertheless, you can always opt for the following significant steps to make your parental agreement legally binding.

  • Hire a Family and divorce solicitor and,
  • Draft a consent order
  • Get the courts approval

With a consent order, your Family law solicitor can help you make the following legal arrangements for your children on/after getting a divorce

  • Where they live
  • When they spend time with each parent
  • When and what other types of contact are allowed to take place in the future(phone calls, for example)

Moreover, you and your former partner need to sign the consent order and approve it to make the child arrangement (parental agreement) legally binding.

Get your consent order approved through the court

While applying for the consent order approval through a court, you need to prove the following:

  1. You have used mediation to carry out child arrangements
  2. Your consent order duly signed by both you and your ex-spouse

You can get help from your Solicitor expert in family law and keep the original copy of both the application and the consent order draft.
Luckily, you don’t have to attend the court hearing once your paperwork is finalised. However, the court will decide whether your decision is in the best of the children’s interest. Accordingly, you will then get the consent order on a parental agreement approved.
On the flip side, you may not get your consent order approved if the judge thinks your decision is counterintuitive and does go against your Children’s maintenance after getting a divorce. Under such circumstances, you can always:

  1. Change your consent order
  2. Request for a different court order which favours your Children’s arrangement on divorce

Child Maintenance Service

What do I need to know about the Child Maintenance Service, and how does it work?

Child maintenance service is suitable for you as a parent can’t make private arrangements about how your children will be paid. Hence, the child maintenance service will allow you to calculate how much each parent will be paying or who’ll be paying. In the latter case, you have to provide the following when applying for a Child Maintenance service.

  1. Any benefits your former spouse is getting
  2. Former- spouse’s income, including State pension
  3. The number of nights your child will be spending with your ex-partner

Exemptions to Child Maintenance payments

Under the following situations, you don’t have to pay for your child’s living arrangements if you are:

  • In prison
  • A full-time student with no income
  • Sharing care equally with the other parent

It is important to carefully note that once the maintenance service calculates how both parents will arrange payments, a fixed amount must be paid on a schedule.
Hence, using a child maintenance service can help you with the following on your behalf if you can’t calculate the payments yourself:

  • Take action if your ex-partner does not make the payments
  • Calculate the child maintenance payments, including the exact amount that requires
  • Help you in dealing with the disagreements about parentage
  • Will sort out any concerns significantly when the circumstances of one of the parents change

Who is Eligible to Apply for the Child Maintenance Services in the UK?

UK Child Maintenance Services eligibility

If you are a UK resident with a right to live, you are eligible to apply provided you are:

  • Either a parent and,
  • Your child would be under 16 or 20 years of age if they were under the approved education or training
  • If you are a child living in Scotland for over 20 years
  • A guardian or a grandparent of a child who is looking for child benefits

Remember: You don’t have to pay child maintenance if you are either a student (full-time) with no income or in prison.

When can’t I use the Child Maintenance Service?

You can’t use the Child Maintenance Service if:

  • Your consent order was approved before 3 March 2003
  • Your consent order is less than a year old
  • One of the parents resides offshore (outside the UK)

Nevertheless, if the paying parents is employed outside the UK, they can still use the maintenance payment service.

How much does Child Maintenance Services Charge?

The application fee is £20.

You are exempted from paying this if you:

  • Are a victim of domestic abuse
  • Are under 19 years old
  • Reside in Northern Ireland

How to apply for Child Maintenance Options?

If you are eligible to use Child Maintenance Options, you need to contact Child Maintenance Options initially.  Be sure to provide the following information about yourself and your family and include:

  • Details entailing full names of both parents and the child you are applying for
  • National Insurance number
  • Bank account details ( you must inform the Child Maintenance Service If it’s not safe to tell another parent, especially when they are controlling and aggressive towards you).

What should I do if I am experiencing any Domestic Violence from the Child’s Other Parent?

If you are concerned and anxious regarding your ex-partner’s aggressive behaviour and you’ve been a  victim of domestic violence during your relationship, you should do the following:

  • Contact the Child Maintenance Service that you don’t want the other partner to stay in touch with you and
  • That it’s not safe for you to be geographically found
  • You can ask the bank to open up a ‘non geographical’ bank account to receive maintenance payments from your former using a pre-payment card
  • You can also contact Refuge and Women’s Aid which operates 24/7

You can always rely on highly friendly family law and divorce solicitors for further information and advice on emotional and practical support. So, contact our approachable team via a call at 0800 048 7573.

How to arrange Private Child Maintenance?

Making private arrangements

If both the divorcing couples agree, one of the parents can arrange private child maintenance.  There is a bright side to using this option. You have flexibility under any changing circumstances without involving anyone (mediator, solicitor or court) as long as both parents agree that either one of them ensures to:

  • Do school or nursery pickups
  • Take care of the child during the holidays
  • Pay a percentage of their income to the parent with ‘day-to-day-care.’
  • Make other maintenance payments, i.e. school uniform, trips, housing
  • Make regular payments to the parent with care

What to do if I agree to the Child Arrangements on Divorce?

If you agree on child arrangements

Deciding on Child arrangements on getting a divorce is one of the most formidable challenges for both parents. Nevertheless, while agreeing to most of the child arrangements, you should consider the following aspects carefully:

  • How much quality time you’ll be spending with your child and
  • Either you’ll take the weekends or weekdays when looking after the child
  • How your child will manage to stay with one parent (especially when it is long-distant that might affect the child’s schooling routine)
  • The amount of time with your child will also affect how much the maintenance payments you’ll have to pay
  • How you’ll stay in contact with your children while they are staying with your ex-spouse if, for instance: you are reallocated to a new house, you could arrange the meeting at a close family relative or a friend living in a town or nearby where your ex-partner is keeping the child
  • You might have to stay in touch with your ex-partner in case of emergencies either through a friend or directly (both parties have to agree on which medium of communication suits them the most)

In addition to keeping in mind the above aspects that you are likely to encounter when agreeing, ensure you write down what you’ve agreed on ( a.k.a, making a parenting plan). Ensure you keep the copy of it to remind each other precisely what points both couples have agreed on when making child arrangements on divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Mother stop Father seeing child UK?

Under UK law, it’s generally the responsibility of both parents to look after a child even after they get a divorce. Hence, a mother can’t legally stop the father from seeing his child/children on separation unless the following jeopardising conditions apply that might potentially affect the child’s welfare in the future:

  • Conditions that limit the child’s access to rights such as education
  • Exposure to criminal activities
  • Prone to abusive and aggressive behaviour
  • Predisposal to drug/ substance abuse

A court can bar the contact of the Father from seeing the child if the mother proves the above conditions with proven grounds.  However, on the flip side, if the mother is abusive to her children, the father has a right to acquire full custody of a child until all the matters are lawfully resolved. 

Hence, the relationship between both parents is protected with both reserving equal rights to look after the child, given the child’s agreement on divorce.

Therefore, any divorcing parent has a right to meet/ contact his/her child under normal conditions. Thus, UK law favors the conducive environment for a positive child’s upbringing even when the parents have decided to end their marriage in the future.

What can be Included in a child arrangement order?

The following decisions form the crucial part of the Child Arrangements Order:

  • The order enforces that neither of the two separating partners can change the surname of the child unless their agreement is legally binding with parental responsibility
  • The ‘live with’ feature of the child arrangements remains legally binding until the child reaches the age of 18 unless there are exceptional cases
  • Upon enforcement order, the court has a right to sanction the person with a warning, fine, or a prison sentence
  • You can apply for the variation in the maintenance payments or other child arrangements if the family circumstances change, as long as it’s in the best interest of the child under custody