What to ask for when you go to court

It is important to consider what precisely you are asking the court and when to do this.

If you don't apply for the right thing, it is quite likely that you won't get the outcome you seek.
If you want an order to set arrangements for who the time your child spends with each parent and who the chlid lives with you should ask for a Child Arrangements Order
If you want an order to determine where the child goes to school, which surname the child should have, if the child should have or not have certain medical treatment then you will need a Specific Issues Order.
If you want to prevent the other parent doing something such as taking the child abroad, moving within the UK, changing schools without your permission or any other aspect of parenting then you will need a Prohibited Steps Order.
You can apply for one or more of these at the same time using the C100 application form. If you think you need more than one type of order it's better to make a single application for all the orders you require at the same time, otherwise you will have to pay a new application fee for each order you apply for.

Child Arrangements Order Checklist

It is all too easy to leave court with a contact order which isn't worth the paper it's written on, ambiguous contact schedules, little or no definition of how holidays, Xmas, Easter (or other religious festivals), Mothers/Fathers Day, birthdays will work, how lost contact is made up etc. This checklist is an attempt to set out the things you should consider when an order is drafted to avoid coming back to court for clarification later.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to post your suggestions and I'll try and incorporate as much as possible.

  • Contact(/"lives with") Schedule
    • Is the regular contact schedule defined?
    • Are the times written into the order?
    • Is the date set for the schedule to start?
    • Is the a schedule for contact to increase and are the dates for the increases set out?
    • Are the arrangements for bank holidays and Teacher Training days defined?
    • If "half the holidays" how are the holidays divided? (1st week/2nd week, 1-2-2-1 for summer holidays)?
    • Should the arrangements for "half the holidays" change as the child gets older?
    • How do you decide who has the children the first week of holidays? Is it the one whose weekend it was at the start?
    • Who should hold the passports and who is responsible for keeping them valid?
    • How and when will passports be handed over from one parent to the other?
    • What are the arrangements for Christmas or other religious festivals?
    • Is there provision for arrangements to be changed if both parties agree to the change?
    • Is there an "Any other contact agreed between the parties" clause to allow for additional contact?
    • Are there arrangements for making up any lost contact, e.g. if the child is "ill" or must attend an event with one parent during the other parent's time?
    • Do the arrangements for making up lost contact have a simple default such as one lost weekend is made up on the next weekend?
  • Handovers
    • Where are handovers to take place? E.g. school or nursery pickup/dropoff, childminders, one, other or both parents house, grandparents, public place with CCTV, Contact Centre.
    • Who should be involved in handovers?
    • What are the alternative handover arrangments as backup? E.g. what happens outside of school term time? If the normal person can't do handovers who should do it instead?
    • Residence (now called "Lives With")
    • Is it necessary to define who the child "lives with"? If it won't benefit the child the No Order principle should apply, i.e. the court should not make an order unless it is more beneficial to the child to make the order than not to make the order.
    • Has where the child will live been agreed? Should this be with both parents, not just one?
    • Is there a phrase such as "child will continue to live with the [parent] who will make child available for contact as follows"? This orders "lives with" by the back door and should not be accepted if this was not agreed. Other wording such as "Father to collect child from his/her home" rather than "Father to collect child from Mother's home" can imply that the child's home is with the mother. This implies a "lives with" order which may not be agreed, resist this type of wording.
  • Miscellaneous
    • How will the child be known? This may be necessary if there's been an attempt to change the child's name without permission.
    • Is liberty to restore required? If there is a history of breaches or the situation is likely to change this will make it easier to return to court as necessary.

Make sure you have the exact wording of the order before you leave the court. This can be as a handwritten note if necessary, if there are no copying facilities take a photo with your phone, but check you can read it before leaving. Unscrupulous solicitors working for the other side will insert all sorts of wording which the court didn't intend in an order and tell you "that's normal practice".

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It is important to consider what precisely you are asking the court and when to do this.