Residence and Contact Orders
Parents are sometimes unable to agree on the arrangements for the care of their child. When this happens they can apply to the Court for an order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
The Children Act 1989 sets out the principles that govern disputes involving children. The paramount consideration is the welfare of the child so a court’s decision will always have regard to the Welfare Checklist.
The Welfare Checklist
- The wishes and feelings of the child in light of age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The child’s age, sex, background and any relevant characteristics
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The ability of the parent to meet the child’s needs
The Court has wide discretion on the orders it can make, but the starting point is that no order will be made unless necessary.
A residence order determines with whom the child will live
- It will normally last until the child reaches 16 years
- The Court can make “shared residence” orders
- As with most orders relating to a child it can be varied if it is in the child’s best interests
A contact order requires the resident parent to allow a specific person(s) contact with the child in accordance with the precise terms of that order.
- This may involve direct (face to face) contact
- It may be supervised by a third party or at a contact centre
- It may be for a few hours or overnight
- It might include holiday or special occasion contact
- It might include indirect contact, such as telephone, email or SKYPE
Who Can Apply?
- Parents, Guardians and Special Guardians
- Anyone with parental responsibility
- Anyone who already has a Residence Order for the Child
- Any party to a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family
- Anyone whom the child has lived with for 3 years
- Anyone who obtains the consent of (a) the Court (b) the Local Authority where the child is in care and (c) everyone who has parental responsibility for the child.
Other persons such as Grandparents can still make an application but they must obtain the permission of the Court first.