Documents to download

When family proceedings are before a court – usually the Family Court – the welfare of the child is the court’s “paramount consideration”. Changes to the legislation made in 2014 introduced a presumption of parental involvement (where this would not put the child at risk of suffering harm), although this does mean any particular division of the child’s time.

For England, a court may ask a local authority officer or a Cafcass officer – known as a Family Court Adviser – to inquire into the child’s feelings and wishes, and also speak to the child’s family and other relevant people. The note sets out what action people can take if they are unsatisfied with the actions of a Cafcass officer or their report to the court. It should be noted that it is the judge – not the Cafcass officer – who determines a child’s contact and residence arrangements.

If someone fails to compile with a child arrangements order, the courts have a number of enforcement powers available which can include contempt of court proceedings. However, if someone has a “reasonable excuse” for failing to comply, then the court should consider this.

Other safeguards include the imposition of a leave requirement on someone who otherwise would not be required to seek the leave of the court before they can apply, for example to prevent vexatious or multiple applications, and supervised or indirect contact arrangements.

A child arrangements order can be appealed against, or an application made to vary or discharge it.

A list of relevant organisations and helpful links can be found at the end of the briefing paper.

This note applies to England and Wales (except for section 4, which applies to England only, and section 9 which applies to Scotland only).

For information specifically on how grandparents can apply to the court for contact and residence with their grandchildren – a topic which the Library receives a number of requests about – please also see the Library briefing paper, Children: Grandparents and court order for contact with grandchildren (Great Britain).


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Registers of Births and Deaths Bill 2019-21

    This Commons Library briefing paper deals with the Registers of Births and Deaths Bill, a Private Member's Bill introduced by Andrew Mitchell. The Bill would reform the way in which births and deaths are registered in England and Wales, moving from a paper-based system to registration in an electronic register. The Bill is awaiting report stage in the House of Commons.

    Registers of Births and Deaths Bill 2019-21
  • Tackling loneliness

    The Government's Loneliness Strategy was published in October 2018. It set out a wide variety of cross-departmental measures that the Government would take to provide 'national leadership' to tackle loneliness in England. As well as explaining the Strategy and the steps taken so far by the Government, this briefing also looks at research into the causes and impact of loneliness and possible interventions. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on loneliness is also considered, alongside the measures introduced by the Government in response. Finally, this paper briefly outlines the situation in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    Tackling loneliness