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Over time it may become difficult to continue complying with an existing child arrangements order. Child arrangement orders are usually in force until a child attains the age of 16, unless a further application is made to the court or the existing order has been varied. There can often be a change in circumstances, or other reasons, which make it difficult to continue with the existing child arrangements. In such a situation you may need to consider varying an existing child arrangement order to protect you from breaching the order in place. Our family law specialists have compiled reasons as to why there may be a need to vary an existing order and how to achieve this.

Reasons to vary an existing child arrangements order

Quite often circumstances of families may change over time. As a result, the parent who has contact with a child may need to reconsider the existing arrangements in place. This could possibly be due to a change of employment status, a change in the residence location for one of the parents or it can even be due to the child wanting more or less contact. All of the above-mentioned examples can give rise to considering a variation in a child arrangements order.

Can a child request a change in the existing child arrangements order?

Family lawyers have noted that quite often children may want to either increase or reduce the contact they have with one parent. This could be due to a parent’s new partner, new children or due to changes in the parents accommodation. In such a situation it is important for both parents to try and understand why a child is requesting a change in the order before preventing any contact. Parents should consider what has changed and attempt to see whether the differences could be reconciled.

Once parents understand a child’s concerns for reducing contact or willingness to increase upon the existing contact, they should attempt to consider varying the arrangements amicably by consent where possible. Quite often where parents remain amicable following a separation and reach an agreement, family lawyers can assist in resolving the issue and assist with preparing an agreement to be complied with by both parents.

Why should you consider variation to an existing child order

Many parents who are faced with a change in circumstances may not consider a variation to their existing child arrangements order. By failing to reconsider the matter at hand, parents risk failing to comply with the existing order which is seen as a breach of a court order. The courts consider the breach of its order severely and have the powers to impose serious sanctions for failing to obey the order. Breach of court orders can result in a fine, custodial sentence, unpaid work or payment for compensation. Our family law specialists therefore advise that rather than failing to adhere to a court order you should consider a variation to the order in place if practicable and possible.

How can I vary an existing child arrangements order?

As with all child law matters you should consider speaking to the other parent to see if they will be agreeable to the changes you propose. Quite often through mutual agreement and or mediation you may be able to achieve the changes you desire which can save you time and costs of proceeding to the family court.

If you feel you are unable to amicably reach an agreement with your partner despite having a valid reason, then you should make notes of all the times you attempted to reach a solution. You could later use this as evidence if the matter proceeds to court to illustrate how you have been reasonable in your approach and the steps you have taken to ensure a breach of the court order does not occur.

What should I do if the other parent is not considering my request to vary an order?

If you are unable to reach an agreement on changing the existing order amicably then in order to avoid breaching the order you would need to make an application to the family court. The court has the power to vary or discharge an existing child arrangements order. In order to make an application to vary and existing child arrangements order you will need to ensure you complete the Form C100. You must attend mediation prior to submitting your application to vary an existing order to the court unless exemptions apply which mean you will not have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

What happens once an application for a variation to an existing order is submitted?

Following being in receipt of your application the courts will issue your application and provide you with a date for a directions hearing. The directions hearing is an initial hearing during which the courts will encourage parties to attempt to reach an agreement considering the best interests and welfare of the child.

Failing to reach an agreement at the initial directions hearing will result in a further hearing to be listed during which the parents will be required to submit their evidence and witness statements in support of the application. Cafcass may also be instructed by the court to investigate the issues at hand and obtain the wishes and the feelings of the child as well to report on any safeguarding concerns with regards to the parenting. A final hearing will then be ordered, in which the courts will review all the available evidence together with any reports from Cafcass or the local authority and provide its final decision as to whether the order should be varied.

What factor are taken into account when considering a variation to an existing order?

As with all matters concerning children, the welfare and the best interests of the child will be the most important factor for the courts to consider. The courts will consider the principles of the welfare checklist which include the wishes and feelings of the child, their physical, educational and emotional needs, the effect of any change on the children and the age, background and any characteristics of the child which are relevant.

The courts will also consider the welfare report which they may order to be prepared by Cafcass or the local authority and consider the recommendations made by the author of the report.

What orders can be made by the court following my application?

The courts have the power to order for the order to be varied should it satisfy the best interests and welfare of the child. The courts can order variation to the type of contact, such as direct or indirect, as well as the frequency and duration of any contact. The court also has the power to not make a variation order if they feel it would not be in the best interests of the child to do so.

Should you require more advice and assistance on the court process to make an application or discuss whether you should consider varying an existing order then contact Kabir Family Law today to arrange a free consultation with our family law specialists

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