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The arrival of a new child arrangements order: what will it mean in practice?

In my blog about the budget I referred to  the Children and Families Bill. One of the most interesting features of the bill is the proposal to replace residence and contact orders with a “child arrangements order”. These orders would set out the arrangements for the upbringing of a child when it is necessary for the courts to become involved.  The child arrangement order will, in practice, have the same effect as a residence or contact order but without, what the Family Justice Review described as, such “loaded terms”.  The terms residence and contact had replaced the previous terms of “custody” and “access” but were no less poorly named titles.

This new terminology is far more positive and is a much needed change in the area of children law.

The breakdown of a relationship between parents can unfortunately sometimes lead to contested family law proceedings to determine with which parent the children should live and in order to sort out the arrangements for the children to spend time with the other, ‘non-resident’ parent. The outcome of such proceedings should never be seen as a “victory” for one parent or a “defeat” for the other but the previous terminology did little to remove such perceptions and the new title of a child arrangements order should go some way to addressing this, even if the change is one of name rather than effect.

The Children and Families Bill also makes an amendment to the Children Act and refers to there being a presumption that a parent’s involvement in the life of the child or children involved in the proceedings will further the welfare of the child(ren), unless the contrary is shown.  Many expected and hoped that the wording of this presumption would go further to make specific reference to a presumption of ‘shared parenting’ in family law.

Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this and children matters including child maintenance.

We can also advise on Schedule1 Children Act 1989 applications.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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