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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Applying for court orders if you disagree about children

If you really can’t agree arrangements about children when a relationship ends, one or both parents can apply to a court. This should be your last resort – taking these issues to court can be very difficult for you and your children. Find out what you can ask courts to decide on and which court orders you can apply for.

First steps at court to settle disputes over children

Most people manage to make their own agreements about children if their relationship ends. But if you really can’t agree with your former partner, you can ask a court to decide about the arrangements.

In most cases, judges will try to help you reach an agreement during the court proceedings. And if you reach agreement, the judge can end the court process without making a court order.

To start the process, you will need to apply for one or more court orders. There are a number of orders family courts can make about arrangements for children.

Types of court order about children

The court order (or orders) you’ll need to apply for depends on what arrangements for your children you can’t agree on.

Contact Orders

Contact Orders make the person who the child lives with allow contact with someone else. For example, if your child lives with your ex-partner and you can’t agree arrangements to see your child, you can apply for a Contact Order.

Residence Orders

Residence Orders decide where and with whom a child will live. If you can’t agree this with your ex-partner, you can apply for a Residence Order.

Specific Issue Orders

These orders make instructions on a specific point about your child that you can’t agree on. For example, if you can’t agree where your child should go to school, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order.

Prohibited Steps Orders

These orders mean that someone is not allowed, without the court’s permission, to do the thing set out in the order. For example, you may not want your ex-partner to take your child overseas. You can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if you are worried about this.

Parental Responsibility Orders

These orders give someone all the rights, duties and responsibilities as a parent. A mother automatically has parental responsibility and doesn’t need to apply for it.

You may want to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order if any of the following apply:

  • you’re the father of a child but were not married to the child’s mother at the time the child was born
  • the child was born after 1 December 2023 and you were not registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate
  • you haven’t already made a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother

Resolving issues about child maintenance

Maintenance to support children is usually agreed between parents or through the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

But sometimes maintenance arrangements are decided by the courts as part of a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. (This is usually a part of a ‘consent order’). If these arrangements don’t work, the problems can be brought back to court.

Who can apply for orders about children

The child’s mother or father can apply for:

  • Contact Orders
  • Residence Orders
  • Specific Issue Orders
  • Prohibited Steps Orders

If you’re a step-parent (married to a parent of a child), you can apply for:

  • Contact Orders
  • Residence Orders
  • Parental Responsibility Orders

If you’re a step-parent and you already have a Parental Responsibility Order, you can also apply for:

  • Specific Issue Orders
  • Prohibited Steps Orders

Other people, including grandparents, can apply for court orders related to children.

But they must apply to the court for permission to do so.

You can apply for permission by filling in a form C2 and returning it to a court that deals with family issues.

Cost of applying for an order

You will usually have to pay a fee to apply for a court order about children. It’s currently £200. You may be able to get a discount if you’re on specific benefits or have a low income.

How to apply for a court order

To apply for a court order about children, you need to fill in a form C100 and return it to a court that deals with family matters. It’s a very detailed form and it’s important that every section is filled in correctly.

To find a court that deals with family matters, follow the link below and select ‘Family work’ in the ‘Court Work Type Search' section.

Getting advice

Applying for a court order about children is a big step. It can lead to decisions that will affect your life and your child’s life in ways you may not have thought about.

It’s a good idea to get legal advice before making a final decision about whether going to court is the right thing for you and your children.

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