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Parents who separate are absolutely free to make their own arrangements for their children. You may choose to have your private arrangements turned into legally binding agreements. However, if you are unable to reach agreement about where the children will spend time and how you will both continue to parent your children, you may need to seek a court order under the Children Act 1989.
The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced child arrangements orders, replacing the old residence and contact orders. Under section 8(1) of the Children Act 1989, as amended, a child arrangements order means an order regulating arrangements relating to the following:
a) With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact;
b) When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Before you go to court, you must prove that you’ve considered mediation (although there are some exemptions to this rule).
Making an application to court need not be difficult, but more complex cases can take time to resolve and become expensive.
You can find out more about child arrangements orders and find important links and forms on the government information website: