A relationship or marriage breakdown is usually a difficult and stressful process. This will often be multiplied where arrangements need to be agreed for children.

When disagreements about children cannot be resolved then ultimately the Family Court can be asked to settle matters. Family law is less straight forward than many people think, and the legal jargon is very confusing.

Family law

The Family Court’s powers derive from the Children Act 1989. At the heart of English Law is that the court should only make orders that further the welfare and best interests of children. The court is more concerned with the legal rights of the children rather than those of the parents.

The Family Court can determine ‘specific issues’ (e.g. where should a child go to school?) and make ‘prohibited steps’ (e.g. preventing a child from being removed abroad) but normally the key issue is ‘child arrangements’.

Common TermOld Legal TermNew Legal Term
AccessContactChild arrangements
CustodyResidenceChild arrangements


Child arrangements involve deciding how much time a child spends with one parent and with which parent the child lives. It remains possible for the arrangements to reflect shared care, even after divorce. There is no one right or wrong answer as every family is different.

Court proceedings

An application for a Child Arrangements Order along with other sorts of orders (such as prohibited steps and specific issues) is made on a standard application form called a C100 and the payment of a Court fee.

Typically, Children Act proceedings will consist of 3 hearings: -

  • FHDRA – First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
  • DRA – Dispute Resolution Appointment
  • Trial

There can be additional hearings; for example, interim arrangements may be subject to a review hearing or applications may be made for specific steps within the Court timetable.


It must be stressed that court proceedings are usually the very last resort. Ultimately court proceedings could mean imposition of an outcome that neither you nor your former partner may welcome.  We recommend serious consideration of Mediation.  If you wish to reconsider attending mediation, please let us know and a referral can be made to an experienced mediator.

It is compulsory in most cases to have attended a MIAM – Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before court proceedings are started.

Family law solicitors

If you have any queries regarding Children Act Proceedings, please contact our Family Law Solicitors in Guildford on 01483 451900.

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