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Navigating Child Arrangement Proceedings: A Guide to Starting the Process in England and Wales

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In cases where parents are unable to agree on arrangements for their children following separation or divorce, initiating child arrangement proceedings under the Children Act 1989 may be necessary to resolve disputes and establish formal arrangements. Navigating this legal process can be daunting, but understanding the steps involved can help parents approach it with clarity and confidence. In this blog, we'll explore the essential aspects of starting child arrangement proceedings in England and Wales.

Understanding Child Arrangement Proceedings

Child arrangement proceedings, governed by the Children Act 1989, aim to determine the living arrangements, contact (visitation), and other aspects of care for children when parents are unable to reach an agreement independently. These proceedings prioritise the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration and seek to ensure their welfare and stability amidst family changes.

Initiating Child Arrangement Proceedings

1. Seeking Legal Advice:

Before commencing child arrangement proceedings, it's advisable for parents to seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in family law. A legal professional can provide guidance on the process, explain rights and responsibilities, and help parents understand their options.

2. Attempting Mediation:

In many cases, the court requires parents to attempt mediation before initiating formal legal proceedings. Mediation involves a neutral third party facilitating discussions between parents to reach mutually acceptable agreements regarding child arrangements. If mediation is unsuccessful or deemed unsuitable, parents can proceed to court.

3. Filing an Application:

To initiate child arrangement proceedings, the parent seeking a court order must file a C100 application form with the Family Court. This form outlines the details of the application, including the desired arrangements for the child and any relevant circumstances or concerns.

4. Attending a Hearing:

Upon receiving the application, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the case. Both parents will be required to attend the hearing, where they may have the opportunity to present their positions, provide evidence, and express their wishes regarding child arrangements.

5. Court Orders and Decisions:

Following the hearing, the court may issue a child arrangement order outlining specific arrangements for the child's living arrangements, contact with each parent, and other relevant matters. The court's decision will be based on the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as their age, wishes (if they are capable of expressing them), and any safeguarding concerns.

Key Considerations and Tips

  • Child-Centered Approach: Throughout the process, parents should prioritise the well-being and best interests of the child, setting aside personal grievances or disputes with the other parent.
  • Open Communication: Maintaining open and constructive communication with the other parent, where possible, can help facilitate agreements and minimise conflict during proceedings.
  • Compliance with Court Orders: Both parents are obligated to comply with any child arrangement orders issued by the court, ensuring that the agreed-upon arrangements are implemented effectively for the benefit of the child.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Child arrangements may need to be reviewed and adjusted over time to accommodate changes in circumstances or the child's evolving needs. Parents should be prepared to be flexible and cooperative in adapting arrangements as necessary.


Initiating child arrangement proceedings in England and Wales is a significant step in resolving disputes and establishing formal arrangements for children following parental separation or divorce. By understanding the process and seeking appropriate guidance, parents can navigate these proceedings with greater clarity and confidence, ultimately working towards solutions that prioritise the well-being and best interests of their children


For expert legal advice regarding any aspect of family law, please get in touch.