Child Arrangements Orders in the UK - Explained

Last updated:

November 06, 2022

Verified by Lawhive solicitors


A Child Arrangements Order is a legal document which sets out how separated parents will look after their children. Keep reading for more details!

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a legal document which sets out how separated parents will look after their children.

If you cannot agree with your ex-partner on who your child (or children) should live with and how much time they should spend with each of you, the Court will decide on these details in a Child Arrangements Order. The Court will make a decision based on what is in the best interest of the child. After the Court has finalised your Child Arrangements Order, you and your ex-partner must follow the arrangements laid out in the order. You can apply to the Court to make a change to an existing Child Arrangements Order but you must show that the changes you are asking to make are in the best interests of the child. Family Courts are usually flexible, they understand that family circumstances often change and that a child’s needs change as they grow older.

A Child Arrangements Order sets out:

  • Who the child will live with,
  • Who will have contact with the child,
  • The type of contact the child will have (direct contact, indirect contact or a combination of both),
  • How much time the child will spend with each parent,
  • How the child will be financially supported.

People that can apply for a Child Arrangements Order:

  • Either parent,
  • The child’s legal guardian,
  • Anyone who has a residence order for the child,
  • Anyone who the child has lived with for at least three years,
  • Any person in a marriage or civil partnership with the parent of the child,
  • Anyone with consent from the local authority if the child is in the local authority’s care.

Do I need a solicitor?

In most cases a solicitor is necessary. See below for more details.

DIY Score:


/ 5

You'll likely need a solicitor for a child arrangement order



Apply to court

1-5 Days

The only way to get a Child Arrangements Order is to make an application to your local Family Court. The application can be made online or in person. The application process can be complicated so it is recommended to hire a solicitor. See ‘What steps are involved?’ section below for further details.

Informal Parenting Plan

1-4 Weeks

It is not necessary to fill out any official paperwork if you and your ex-partner agree on child arrangements. A common way of keeping a record of child arrangements is by writing it down in an informal parenting plan. This is not legally binding, if the parenting plan is broken by either parent, there are no legal consequences.

Consent Order

£900 - £5000
1-8 weeks

A Consent Order is a legal document that confirms the child arrangements you have agreed on with your ex-partner. It is an alternative to getting a Child Arrangements Order but has a similar process.

What steps are involved?

Step 1


Before you can get a Child Arrangements Order approved by a Court, you will first have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Both parents (or guardians) must attend the meeting. In this meeting a specialist family Mediator will decide if an agreement on child arrangements can be reached. The Mediator can recommend another Mediation session or decide if the case should go directly to Court. You can hire a solicitor to guide you through and / or represent you during this meeting.

Step 2

Agreeing Outside of Court

If there is no disagreement about the child arrangements you can then submit a form to your local Family Court. Your solicitor will help you through this process.

Step 3

Going to Court

If you have not reached an agreement, you will have to apply to the Court for a first hearing. Your solicitor will help you through this process. All parents and guardians have to attend this hearing. In the hearing, the Court and an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) will look at the issues of your case and try to find a solution. The court will encourage you to try and agree on the details of the order and will issue a finalised Child Arrangements Order if you do.

Step 4

Further Hearings

If an agreement still hasn’t been reached, the case will continue, and you will have to attend a final hearing. At this point, you will have to give evidence and a CAFCASS officer and they will spend time interviewing and observing the child. At the final hearing, the Court will use evidence and advice from the CAFCASS officer to make a final decision on the arrangements and issue a finalised Child Arrangements Order.

Find a Solicitor for your

Child Arrangement Order

Hassle-free help from the UK's best family solicitors.

Get a free quote now



Evidence and documentation


  • Record of communication between you and the other person (or people) involved. This can be emails, letters, texts or other documents
  • Proof of Address
  • Proof of Identity (like a passport, birth certificate or driving licence)
  • Proof of parentage (like the child’s Birth Certificate or a DNA test)
  • Bank Statements


  • A parenting plan (this is a written statement that both parents sign which outlines the ground rules of their shared parenting)


  • Applying to court for an order costs £215 not including legal fees a solicitor may charge
  • If a Child Arrangements Order dispute goes as far as a final hearing, the cost could be as high as £5,000.

Factors that effect cost

  • The complexity of the case
  • How much the parents and / or guardians agree with the content of the order
  • If you take it to court


  • As little as 1 week if the case does not go to court
  • Going through the court process can take 6-12 weeks

Factors that effect time

  • Complexity of the case
  • Whether there are any concerns about the child’s wellbeing or safety


Jump to:

Information about child arrangement order

Things you'll need to start your case

Stay informed on the law

We pride ourselves on helping consumers and small businesses get greater access to their legal rights.

Lawhive is your gateway to affordable, fast legal help in the UK. Lawhive uses licensed solicitors you can connect with online for up to 50% of the cost of a high-street law firm.

Lawhive Ltd is not a law firm and does not provide any legal advice. Our network includes our affiliate company, Lawhive Legal Ltd. Lawhive Legal Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with ID number 8003766 and is a company registered in England & Wales, Company No. 14651095.

For information on how to make a complaint about an experience you have had with our SRA regulated affiliate company Lawhive Legal Ltd click here.

Lawhive Legal Ltd is a separate company from Lawhive Ltd. Please read our Terms for more information.

© 2024 Lawhive
86-90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE

Version: 3e064f3