When parents or relatives can not agree about who a child should live with or how much time they should spend with them and when, the Family Court can decide. This is called Child Arrangements.
The proceedings usually follow a certain order, but there can be many hearings over a few months or sometimes even longer depending on how complicated the case is. This guide has been written to assist people where domestic abuse has been a factor in the relationship.
Find out more about Legal support for Child Arrangement proceedings.
Below are the different stages of the process. Not all proceedings will follow the same order. This is a rough guide to assist you.
- Step 1: Mediation
People in disagreement over child contact, usually need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can ask a court to make an order.
- Step 2: Application to court to settle issues over child contact
If it is necessary for the court to decide on child contact arrangements, you will either need to make an application, or you will be notified of a hearing if the other person has made the application.
- Step 3: Checks to safeguard you and your children
Before you go to court for the first time, the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) are required to carry out some checks to see if there are any concerns for you or the children involved in court proceedings.
- Step 4: The first hearing at court
A First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) is the first hearing at the start of your case. It is usually a short meeting for the Judge to decide how the case should be organised.
- Step 5: Hearings to present evidence of domestic abuse
If you have told the court that you have experienced domestic abuse, and it has not already been proven, this should be investigated in more detail in a Finding of Facts hearing. At the hearing, the judge will decide what took place and how it will affect the rest of the case.
- Step 6: Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)
In some cases, CAFCASS or the Judge will ask you to attend a Separated Parents Information programme (SPIP) during court proceedings. They may also ask you to attend before proceedings begin to help with the process.
- Step 7: Final hearing
At the final hearing, the Judge will decide about the contact and residency arrangements for the children.