When there is a dispute about who a child should live with (formerly custody and residence) or how often they should spend time with each parent (formerly access and contact), an Application can be made to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. How long an Application can take to finalise depends on the circumstances of the case and whether there are any safeguarding concerns.
In most cases, it will take around 6 to 8 weeks from the date of the Application to have a first hearing listed. If there are welfare and safety concerns, an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) may be asked to report to the Court and investigate the concerns raised. CAFCASS will normally request 12 to 14 weeks to provide their report.
A second hearing will be listed as soon as all evidence is filed which is needed by the court to determine what arrangements for the child should be. Sometimes more hearings are necessary if the issues are complex, further evidence is needed or safeguarding concerns are raised.
The Court are able to deal with matters on an urgent basis however, the Court will always have to carry out safeguarding checks before a Final Order can be made. This involves CAFCASS conducting checks on both parents with the Police and Social Services.
In children matters the Court will always try and resolve matters as quickly as possible for the sake of the children. However, you should be aware that this can often take between 6 to 12 months from when an Application is issued to conclude arrangements even though the Courts do their best to decide matters quickly where children are involved.
Should you require any advice regarding this, or any other child related issue please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our experienced family team on 0333 305 7777. We have offices across Lancaster, Barrow in Furness, Ulverston, Grange over Sands and Windermere. Face to face, MS Teams or telephone appointments can be arranged at your convenience.