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How to deal with bad child arrangements orders

How to deal with bad child arrangements orders is a problem faced by parents of children in Cheshire who attended court unrepresented and felt they had to agree to the order the court told them was to be made. Cheshire solicitors Stonehewer Moss have experience of Children Act work from the first introduction of the 1989 Act and have seen the increase in people attending court without a solicitor. The court rules about first children hearings, called FHDRA, are found at Rule 12 and associated Practice Directions to the Family Procedure Rules 2010; a set of rules made in the teeth of the credit crunch and squeezed budgets. Issues like violence have in the past had plenty of resources available before orders were made, for both victim and perpetrator but any political rhetoric that this remains true has to be questioned. There is a proposal being considered to amend Practice Direction 12J about violence issues but for the present the court has subjective powers it exercises at the FHDRA to effectively shoot down objections to orders apparently without evidence of the impact of the proposed order on the child. The writer of this blog has often advised clients enquiring about child cases but lacking the means to pay for a solicitor to dig their heals in as the court has no power to order without agreement at the FHDRA but he has to admit this is probably not the case. The court has to apply the welfare test but if the judge decides there is no welfare issue to address and he thinks the child will not placed at risk, he can force an order upon you. How can this be countered? We tentatively suggest the following:-

  1. Turn up. Don`t do a Theresa.
  2. Co-operate with cafcass while they carry out checks and make your points in a measured but firm manner. Cafcass report welfare issues to the court for the fhdra;
  3. See if you can afford a solicitor. Fixed fees are available and legal aid for some cases;
  4. Don`t be cowed by the court. The feeling may be that you are being bullied. Make your points moderately but firmly and ask the judge to record that he or she  is satisfied there is no welfare issue and he or she  has considered why there is no risk to the child without further evidence or consideration, with reasons,on the face of the order;
  5. If the order you dislike is made and you want to seek a review or appeal, ask the court to stay the order before you leave the court. Seek advice and file the appeal or letter requesting a review in time. If stay is not granted, comply with the order until the appeal is heard but ask for an emergency hearing if you feel the risk is too great.
  6. Try to avoid it getting to positions 4 and 5. Risk management while ensuring a child arrangement is in place  in all but the most serious cases is your responsibility; just saying no to your ex is inviting trouble further down the line both from the court and perhaps your child. Never put yourself at risk but tackle the issue through a solicitor if you can.
  7. Be trusting: the system has faults but judges are usually child focused and acting under pressure; if you can take responsibility and reduce their need to intervene it will help you achieve a good outcome. The writer of this blog has never filed an appeal under the Children Act. How to deal with bad child arrangements orders may me summarised as taking steps to prepare for arrangements by limiting the issues the court needs to decide if you can but making your points if the other parent refuses to co-operate.

For advice negotiation and representation in child arrangement cases please call 01606 872200 or e mail visit


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Stonehewer Moss Solicitors, Citadel House, Solvay Road, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 4DP

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