Anyone who does not fall within a relevant exemption and wishes to begin court proceedings in relation to a dispute regarding a child must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
The purpose of this is for a mediator to provide information regarding the mediation process and to assess whether the case is suitable for mediation to be attempted. Once a MIAM has been attended it is possible for proceedings to be issued, it is not compulsory to actually proceed with mediation following the MIAM.
Upon hearing an application the Court has the power to make a number of Orders in relation to children. The most common Orders made are referred to as “Section 8” Orders. There are three types of order that can be made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, these are:
A Child Arrangements Order
This is an order which will regulate arrangements relating to:
- With 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.
A Child Arrangements Order, therefore, deals with both issues of with whom a child is to live and with whom a child is to have contact. The court can order that a child lives with one parent and has contact with the other or can order that there be shared residence, which is where the child spends time living with each parent.
In relation to contact, the level of contact which can be ordered will vary. It is possible for the court to order indirect contact (letters, cards, emails etc) or one of three different types of face to face direct contact:
- Supervised contact: Contact takes place in a supervised contact centre with a supervisor present at all times. The supervisor will supervise only one family at a time.
- Supported contact: Contact takes place in a contact centre, however, there will be a number of families having contact at the same time and support workers will be present to observe all those having contact. There are centres locally in Bexleyheath, Abbeywood, Gravesend, Istead Rise and Bromley; however, there is often a waiting list to use these centres.
- Unsupervised contact: Contact will take place outside of a contact centre and there will be no supervision. The duration will be set by the court and can include overnight stays.
A Prohibited Steps Order
This is an Order which prevents someone from taking a specific course of action in respect of a child. For example, they can be used to prevent the removal of a child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales. This Order is usually obtained where there have been threats made to remove a child from the care and control of the parent without consent.
A Specific Issue Order
This is an Order where the Court is asked to determine a specific question concerning a child. This can include issues such a changing a child’s surname or what school the child is to attend.
It is possible for non-parents to make an application to the court for a section 8 Order. However, they will first need the permission of the court to apply.
For more advice on Children Matters, please contact our Family Department on 020 8301 7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.