In the event that you and your ex-partner cannot agree on what arrangements may be best for your child, and after considering with you a dispute resolution process such as mediation, an application can be made to the court for an order under the Children Act 1989.
The court has the power to make a wide range of orders based on what is in your child’s best interests. This is known as the ‘welfare principle’. What is in a child’s best interest depends on a number of factors listed in the Children Act 1989, known as the welfare checklist:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, considered in light of his/her age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect on the child of any change in his or her circumstances.
- The child’s age, sex, background, and any characteristics that he or she has that the court considers relevant.
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering. This includes emotional, as well as physical, harm.
- How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs.
- The range of powers available to the court.
Where one party is not having the desired level of contact with their children, or if there is a dispute as to whom the child should live with, the court can make orders relating to who the child will live with and how much time the child will spend with the other parent. These are known as child arrangement orders.