The terms 'residence' and 'contact' were replaced by child arrangement orders on 22 April 2014.

The court prefers that parents agree between themselves where the child or children should live and how and when the other parent will see them. If you are able to sort this out between yourselves, then there is no need for a court order.

If you cannot agree then the court will have to decide. Firstly, you attend an information session with a mediation agency, unless you are exempt, to find out about mediation and consider if it is for you. If mediation is not the way forward, either of you can then make an application to the court.

The court will try to ensure that you both come to an agreement but, if you cannot agree, the court will make an order.

Stages of Proceedings

The court proceedings will pass through various stages and we will update clients as to where they are in the proceedings.

  • the first appointment – the court will look at how the case should progress and what steps will need to be taken to get the case ready for hearing.  This will include looking at what, if any, further assessments need to be carried out
  • an advocates meeting – this is when the legal representatives meet to consider what further issues need to be determined by the court and what evidence will need to be before the court to ensure that the hearing proceeds effectively
  • case management conference – this is to enable the judge to manage the case and identify key issues
  • issues resolution hearing – the judge will identify remaining issues and as far as possible narrow those issues.  Consider whether a final hearing is necessary and, if so, what that hearing will need to deal with in order to bring the case to a conclusion
  • fact finding hearing – these are specific hearings to determine any facts in dispute. Where allegations have been made, the court is required to test the evidence to establish whether fact(s) can be proven. The standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities
  • final hearing – the judge will make final order(s) bringing the proceedings to an end. The judge will consider the evidence both written and oral and give a judgement as to the final outcome. The judge will scrutinise the local authority’s case and the care plan that has been prepared in respect of each child subject to the court proceedings

A child’s birth must be registered within 42 days by one of the parents if they are married or by the mother if they are not. The child will always be registered in that name.

Where the parents are agreed the child’s name can be altered whether or not they are married. It is normal and good practice to evidence the change by a deed (a deed poll).

If the parents are not in agreement and there is a residence order in being the child’s name cannot be changed without leave of the court so there needs to be a court order sanctioning it. If a residence order is not in being one of the parents will have to apply to the court for leave to change the name.

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