Not sure where to start with getting child custody? Follow our step by step guide for how to apply for a child arrangement order.
A CAO application is made under the Children Act 1989, Section 8.
1: The application form C100 can be found here
2: You’ll also need to complete a form C120 which is the witness statement template you will have to complete in support of this application. You’ll find C120 here.
This needs to be completed carefully and fully as effectively you will be setting out your case here.
3: Before you can issue an application you will probably have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) and invite your ex. There are exemptions to this requirement which you can find here.
At this appointment a mediator will discuss your disagreements with you and assess whether mediation is suitable. If mediation is effective, much of the time and stress involved in applying for a CAO can be avoided.
4: If mediation is unsuitable or breaks down, you can make your application to the court, confirming that you either attended MIAM or provide the reason for non-attendance.
5: Once your application has been made, the case will be allocated to a judge or magistrate. The application will then be referred to CAFCASS, who, as well as speaking with you and your family, will also gather relevant information from the local authority and police. A report will be written by the CAFCASS officer providing recommendations.
What court hearings will I have to attend?
As part of your application for a CAO, you will need to attend a series of court hearings. The number of hearings will vary, depending on the specifics of your case and how much evidence needs to be filed, but there are broadly three stages:
1: First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA): In this first hearing, the parties (the children are not parties except in exceptional circumstances – [link to sub page about separate representation of children]) must attend so that the areas of dispute can be explained and any possible resolutions explored. If an agreement is reached, the judge can make an order there and then. Otherwise the judge will highlight the issues which remain in dispute. Both parties are likely to be ordered to prepare statements on which they will rely. For help on writing a statement, click here. [ link to relevant sub page]
2: Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA): If CAFCASS has been ordered to prepare a report, a DRA is scheduled at which an attempt will be made to resolve the issues in dispute by hearing evidence from the parties. If an agreement is reached an order can be made. If not, a final hearing is scheduled.
3: Final Hearing: The court will consider all relevant evidence that has been submitted and may hear oral evidence from you and your ex and any other witnesses before making a final decision.
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