How can I apply to court to see my child?
Is your ex-partner not letting you see your children as much as you want, or at all? Have you tried discussing this and negotiating, to no avail? It may be that the only way left for you is to apply to court to get an order to see your children. However, it is important to consider if you have tried every other possible avenue first. The reason for this is:
- Going to court can be very costly, time-consuming and stressful;
- If you apply to court, the judge will want to see evidence of what you have already tried (i.e., court must always be treated as a ‘last resort’).
What options do I have without going to court?
While considering how you can apply to court to see your children, it’s important to note that there are a number of options you may consider trying before you reach that stage:
- Informal negotiation/discussion with your ex-partner to agree contact arrangements;
- More formal agreements (which do not involve going to court);
- Family mediation
- Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP).
However, if all attempts to agree child arrangements without going to court do not work, it may be that you need to make an application to court for a Child Arrangement Order. You can do this yourself or seek legal advice from a solicitor.
What is a Child Arrangement Order?
A Child Arrangements Order is a court order which deals with arrangements relating to:
- With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
- When a child should live with, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Essentially, it can detail quite a lot of things – both who the child lives with, but also who has contact and how, for the non-resident parent.
Please note that some people talk about getting custody of a child. Child custody is an old term, and a Child Arrangements Order is the current legal arrangement that deals with who a child will live with and has contact with when these matters cannot be agreed outside of court.
How to apply for a Child Arrangement Order
You can instruct a family lawyer to assist you with this, or represent yourself. However, please consider that once a matter is in court it is very important that you comply with court orders on time, and in the correct manner. There may be cost implications for doing something wrong, whether you intended to or not. As such we would strongly advise that if you are able to afford it, or can get Legal Aid, you seek a solicitor’s advice before making any application to court.
How to apply for a Child Arrangement Order without a lawyer
Please visit the government website for full details on making the application yourself.
Below are the key steps when doing it yourself.
1. Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
The MIAM will assess whether mediation is right for you and if you can agree arrangements out of court.
You will need to find a mediator to book a MIAM. Only authorised mediators can carry out a MIAM. Check with the mediator before you book.
2. Make your application to court
You can apply for a court order by either:
- Using the online service to apply;
- Filling out and sending in the C100 form.
It costs £232 to make this application, unless you are able to successfully get Help with Fees, which requires another form – Form E160. This can again be filled out or completed online.
The information includes:
- a social services and criminal record check on you and the other parent.
- any concerns you and the other parent may have about the safety and welfare of your children.
4. Going to court (called a ‘hearing’)
The court will aim to set a first hearing date within 2 months of the application. However, in our experience there are currently severe delays in the Family courts, and so it may take longer than this.
At the first hearing, the judge will consider if an agreement can be reached between you and your ex-partner about the child arrangements (in relation to contact). If agreement cannot be reached, then the judge will usually make ‘directions’ for the next steps in the case. These ‘directions’ are written up in a court order, and can include:
- Statements (for example, you and your ex-partner may be asked to write a witness statement setting out your position with any supporting evidence);
- Evidence (for example, social services, the police, or any other relevant organisation may be asked to disclose relevant records);
- Assessments (if required, for example, a parenting assessment or psychological assessment of one or other of the parents);
- The date for the next hearing.
Dates are always given for when something is to be completed, and it is extremely important that you stick to the date for anything you have been asked to do – if you do not, you risk delaying the proceedings, and there may even be costs implications.
There can by a number of hearings in Child Arrangement proceedings, depending on the complexity of the matter and how much disagreement there is.
If you reach an agreement before the date of the next hearing, you must go back to court for a judge to make a consent order (which is an order that both you and your ex-partner agree to, setting out the agreed terms for the contact arrangements).
Please visit the government website for more details on what may happen if you cannot agree to the contact arrangements at the first hearing.
Enforcing a Child Arrangement Order
Finally, what happens if at the end of the proceedings you have successfully got a court order, but your ex-partner does not stick to the terms of it? You may need to consider enforcing a child arrangements order.
If you would like any help or advice on seeing your child without going to court or any issues relating to child proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Children Matters Team or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.