One of the main roles of the English family courts is to resolve disputes about children when a relationship between parents – married or unmarried – breaks down. One of the most common areas of conflict arises when parents are unable to agree which one of them the child should live with. In these circumstances the courts can make what are known as ‘Child Arrangements Orders’. (These orders used to be called Custody Orders or Residence Orders). The Courts are sensitive to the need to protect children from being pressurised by either parent to take sides or make choices about where they should live.
Another common issue that often needs to be resolved concerning children is the question of how much or how little contact the child should have with the parent he or she does not live with (the non-resident parent). Until 2014 details of contact were set out in ‘Contact Orders’. Now contact is regulated as part of a Child Arrangements Order. Contact was previously termed access and the concept is equivalent to the U.S term ‘visitation’. The Courts consider that regular contact is mostly desirable although the practice of how it is achieved varies depending on circumstances.
The courts can also make Prohibied Steps Issues and Specific Issues Orders on other aspects of children’s lives such as schooling, medical treatment and travel although these are less common than Child Arrangements Orders.
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