Guide to applying for a court order about the arrangements for your children without the help of a lawyer

Posted on Tuesday, 5th Jul, 2016 at 10:33:37 PM
This guide is for you if you are a parent and you disagree with your childs other parent or other family members about things like:
where your child lives, who they live with and when, how often they see the parent they dont live with most of the time, who else they should see, and you want to apply for a court order about the arrangements for your children.


You may have split up recently or years ago, shared a home or never lived together. Maybe you had an informal agreement between you about your children but it no longer works for some reason. It doesnt matter what is behind your disagreement; this guide is still for you. This guide will also be useful if it is not you but your ex or other family member who is applying for a court order.

It is also for people supporting others in this situation, for example Personal Support Unit volunteers, CAB volunteers, housing support workers, advice workers and court staff as well as relatives and friends.

What does this guide do?
It explains how to apply for a court order about the arrangements for your children. These orders are called child arrangements orders. A child arrangements order sets out who your child or children will live within the future, who they will spend time or have contact with, and when these arrangements will take place.


Sorting out arrangements for your children by negotiation and agreement
You can sort out the arrangements for your children by agreement at any time either before or after you start court proceedings or without there being any court proceedings at all. Whether you manage to do this will depend partly on you and your exs attitude to solving your problems this way.

Any agreement usually means being prepared to compromise accepting less or giving more. But it may be worth doing this to avoid the uncertainty and expense of going to court.
If you are not willing to negotiate or refuse to go along to mediation then you may have no choice but to go to court.

Reasons for agreeing the arrangements for your children:
It can be less stressful. √
It can be quicker. √
It can be cheaper. √
It can create more certainty about the outcome. √

Parenting plans
A parenting plan is a written plan worked out following negotiation between you and your childs other parent or other family members. It sets out your decisions about the everyday, practical issues to do with caring for your children including how you are going to communicate about the children, living arrangements, money, education, religion and healthcare. A parenting plan can be a useful way of making sure everyone involved knows what is expected of them and creating some certainty for the future.

Before you can go to court

Experience suggests that reaching an agreement yourselves is usually better than the court telling everyone what to do. You are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome and stick to the decisions you have made together. And children do better when their parents and relatives cooperate with each other.

Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM) Anyone thinking of going to court has to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) unless they are exempt. This applies whether you are applying for a court order yourself without the help of a lawyer (you are a litigant in person) or you are represented by a lawyer and whether you have legal aid or not.

The purpose of this meeting is to:
give you information about how you might be able to sort out your disagreement without going to court; and
assess whether mediation is a safe way for you and your ex (or other family members) to try and sort out your disagreement.

You contact an authorised family mediator to set up a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. They will invite you to attend a MIAM either separately or together with your ex.

What happens at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting?

The meeting will probably last about 40-45 minutes. The mediator:
Explains what family mediation and other forms of dispute resolution are and how they work.
Explains the benefits of mediation, other forms of dispute resolution, and the likely costs.
Answers any questions you have about your situation and how mediation might work for you.
Assesses whether you are eligible for legal aid for mediation or will have to pay for it.
Assesses whether mediation or other form of dispute resolution is suitable in your case
Completes the relevant part of the C100 form if you want to make a court application.

Mediation aims to help you communicate with one another now and in the future and to reduce the extent or intensity of any dispute and conflict within your family. Trained mediators can help you talk to each other and find solutions, even when it is hard. They are there to assist you both and can provide you with a safe and supportive environment where you can work out solutions together. But, nobody has to use mediation. Once you have been to the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, you or the family mediator may decide there are reasons why mediation will not work for you. This may be because you have suffered domestic violence. It may be that one or more of you have a drug or alcohol problem or a mental illness. That problem or illness may create such a big risk that it isnt safe for mediation to take place.

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