Making arrangements for children – terminology busting.

Date Added 20.05.21

Making arrangements for children when parents separate can be difficult enough, but this can be made even more complicated when old terminology is used.  There are lots of terms that may still be mentioned, when looking at what you need to put in place in regard to your children. Below we outline how these arrangements have changed and what you need to have in place now should you separate.

Custody and Access Orders

Before the Children Act 1989, if the court was being asked to make an order in relation to which parent a child was going to live with, this was known as a ‘Custody Order’.  An order which set out which parent a child was going to visit, was known as an ‘Access order’.  These orders no longer exist because any children who had these orders in their favour are now over 18 years of age and so they will have expired.  However, these terms are often still used on television and in the media.

Residence and contact orders

In 1989 the Children Act replaced a ‘Custody Order’ with the term ‘Residence Order’.  This order sets out who a child will live with and could be made:

  • In favour of a single named person (also known as a sole residence order).
  • Jointly in favour of two (or more) persons who live in the same household together, such as a mother and a step-father (also known as a joint residence order).
  • In favour of two (or more) persons who live in different households (also known as a shared residence order).

At the same time an ‘Access Order’ was renamed as a ‘Contact Order’. This order set out the time a child spent with another person who they were not residing with  This could include:

  • Staying contact (i.e. staying at their address overnight and during holiday periods).
  • Visiting contact (i.e. visiting the other parent for a day, for tea).
  • Indirect contact (i.e. telephone and video calls, sending letters, cards and presents).

Both Residence Orders and Contact Orders, which were made before 22 April 2014, still exist and will continue to be valid orders which are enforceable through the court.

Child Arrangements Orders

Following investigations about the impact of orders on parents and children, it became apparent to the court that by describing the arrangements for the children in these terms some parents were using the orders to control the other parent in a way which was considered not to be beneficial for the children.

This resulted in Residence and Contact Orders being replaced by a single order called a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ on 22 April 2014.  Since then any application which is made to the court will be for this one order which regulates:

  • Who a child will live with, spend time with or otherwise have contact with.
  • When a child is to live, spend time with or otherwise have contact with any other person.

Our experienced family team advise clients on the options available to then as parents.  For more information regarding applying for a ‘Child Arrangement Order’ or any other matter relating to the welfare and rights of your children…talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. The team are here to work with you to achieve the best possible outcome.

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