Ian Walker

Ian Walker – Child Law Specialist Solicitor and Mediator

Residence Orders

The Children Act 1989 introduced Residence and Contact Orders.

Residence Orders determined where a child resided (lived).

Contact Orders determined when and how a child spent time with a parent and other important family members who they were not residing with.

Before Residence there was Custody

Residence Orders and Contact Orders replaced Custody Orders and Access Orders. The orders did the same thing, but the terminology of Residence and Contact was different, and also an improvement.

The idea of the Children Act was very much to modernise the law relating to children. This revised terminology was significantly more child focused and a vast improvement.

The problem with access and custody was that the terminology kind of suggested that a child was imprisoned or owned by one parent and the other parent was lucky to be able to access time with them. Also, the terminology was framed in a very adult way…. An adult had custody of the child; an adult had access to the child. Critics said that terminology suggested that the adult was more important than the child.

Placing the child first

The terminology for Residence and Contact Orders made clear that the child was centre stage. Now orders were framed with the child as the most important person (in line with other aspects of the Children Act). The child has contact with… The child resides with…

As well as the welfare principle (which is that the child’s welfare is the most important consideration in any decision making), the Children Act also contains the no order principle.

The No Order Principle

The No Order Principle of the Children Act says;

When the court is considering whether or not to make one or more orders under the Children Act 1989 with respect to a child, it must not make the order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.

Note the use of the word must.

The underlying idea was to encourage parents to talk and to agree arrangements rather than the default position being that the parents needed to have a court order which set out what their arrangements would be.

Joint Custody

Pre-Children Act Orders were often that parents would have joint custody of their children and/or that one parent had custody of the children and the other parent had reasonable access.

The no order principle remains in place, but over time there was increasing pressure for joint residence orders. Whilst terminology is important – the importance to parents as a point of contention as to who had residence (a residence order) and who had contact (only contact),(and why not joint residence?) started to become a distraction. They original point of the no order principle was to encourage parents to sort out reasonable arrangements without having to involve the court.

The Children and Families Act 2014

In April 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 came into effect. This amended the Children Act.

In particular the Children and Families Act 2014 removed from the Children Act the definitions of residence order and contact order. Residence and Contact Orders were replaced by Child Arrangement Orders.

A Child Arrangement Orders is an order relating to:

whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with, and

when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person

Child Arrangement Orders will say that a child lives with one parent and spends time with the other parent. But a child arrangements order can also say that a child lives with one parent (in a defined way) and then lives with the other parent (in another defined way). A child living with both parents under a child arrangements order does not mean 50/50 time (although it could do).

Children living with both parents for different periods of time in a week reflects the reality/practicalities of life but is much less likely to diminish (in the eyes of one or both parents) the importance of the parent with whom the child spends less time. Even with Residence and Contact Orders the parents who had Residence could use the tag of residence to diminish the role of the other parent (in circumstances where the parents could and should be working together).

Residence Orders are no more

So, Residence Orders are no more.

Language is important and the move to Child Arrangements Orders has been a step forward.

Our team are specialists in Children Law. If you need any assistance we are ready to help

Latest News

Is there going to be a spike in divorce cases when lockdown ends?

Ever since the country entered into lockdown there have been warnings about the effect of lockdown on relationships, and the possibility that when it finally ends there will be a spike in divorce cases. Now Citizens Advice have added their.

Read more
Is an arbitration award final?

If you are involved in divorce proceedings you may be considering using arbitration to sort out the financial settlement. Arbitration involves both parties instructing an arbitrator to decide the case for them, rather than have the matter

Read more
What happens to pensions on divorce?

It is a common scenario that on divorce one party will have significant pension provision, and the other party will have little or none. Clearly, this may be a relevant factor in any divorce settlement, but how exactly are pensions dealt wi

Read more
Welcome to Sarah Hindle – Child Law Expert / Head of our Child Law Team

We are very pleased to welcome Child Law specialist solicitor, Sarah Hindle to our team as Head of our Child Law Team. Sarah has joined us from the leading London Child Law team of Bindmans LLP. Sarah’s legal career has been mostly in London, including  with other leading Child Law firms;  Creighton & Partners and […]

Read more
The requirement to negotiate reasonably …and the penalty for not doing so

It is actually quite rare for financial remedy proceedings (i.e. proceedings relating to the financial settlement on divorce) to go all the way to a final contested hearing, at which the court has to adjudicate upon the matter.

Read more
Using similar fact evidence to support your case

Your partner has subjected you to systematic abuse. You want to bring it to the attention of the court, but you fear that the court will not believe you. What if you then found out that your partner had abused someone else in the same way?

Read more
Where are divorce records kept?

For most people who have gone through a divorce it is an academic question: where are the records of the divorce kept? It may of course be of interest to anyone investigating their family history, but it can also be crucial to anyone who

Read more
We are recruiting – Family Law Solicitor /(potential) Mediator

Fantastic opportunity; Talented Family Law Solicitor needed to join fastest growing family law team in South West (Winners Modern Law Awards 2020 – Boutique Practice (11+Employees)).

Read more
Family Mediator/Lawyer Mediator wanted

Award-winning South-West family law and mediation practice seeking mediator to join our team. Lawyer mediators and specialist mediators considered. Range of employment options. Join a friendly team and progressive practice.

Read more
We are now able to assist clients in Yeovil

I am very pleased to announce that we are now able to assist clients in Yeovil. We now have access to a consulting room the White House, Hendford Hill, Yeovil BA20 2RF. This is located near to Yeovil town centre. There is a map below.

Read more
I want a divorce where do I begin?

You’ve come to the painful conclusion that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You want a divorce, but where do you start? The situation can seem overwhelming. Your entire life appears to hang in the balance: with whom you live...

Read more
Can divorce ever be easy?

It’s a simple question, and one that, one suspects, often goes through the mind of those involved in, or contemplating, divorce. Divorce has a reputation for being one of the most difficult and stressful things anyone has to go through duri

Read more