There have been a number of recent, significant changes which seek to ‘modernise’ family law.
The new changes are being introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014. So, what does this mean for our clients? These changes are designed to assist families to reach safe and child focused agreements for their child where possible out of the court setting.
The most significant changes are that even before contemplating a court application attendance at MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) will now be compulsory for the person wishing to make such an application. At the meeting information will be provided about the ways in which the dispute may be resolved other than by a court application and the suitability of mediation to try and resolve the matter.
Unfortunately, it will not always be possible to resolve matters through non-court resolution and in these circumstances it would be necessary to seek the courts assistance by making an application. Under the new programme, it is envisaged that there will be a swift resolution of the dispute.
Another significant change is the terminology used. We say goodbye to Residence (previously known as Custody) and Contact Orders (previously known as Access) and welcome Child Arrangement Orders (CAO)
A Child Arrangement Order means an order regulating the arrangements relating to any of the following:
(a) With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and
(b) When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
When considering arrangements, the children can live with one parent and have contact with the other. In some circumstances the children can spend an almost equal amount of time with both parents which is known as a shared care arrangement. The amount of time that a child spends with each parent depends on where the parents live geographically; the parent’s own commitments for work and the child’s commitments.
Whether parties are able to resolve matters through non-court resolutions or a court application the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.