Do you have to get a consent order for child arrangements?

Originally published on 4th April 2024 at 10:20 AM
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If you’re a parent and decide to separate from your partner, you will need to work out arrangements for your children. These child arrangements include where they will live, how you will share their care and how often you will both spend time with them. You will also need to decide on other topics such as holidays, school and communication with each other.

Where you document these arrangements is up to you both. In this blog, we will discuss the different options available and things some legal topics which might cause confusion (ie. the ‘no-order principle’).

What is the consent order?

A consent order is a legally binding document the court reviews, setting out your agreement on how you're dividing your money, property, assets, pensions and debt etc.

Are child arrangements part of the consent order?

Child arrangements are not included when you apply to the courts for a consent order.

However, you can include Child Maintenance and any additional agreements relating to expenses for your children in it if you’re both in agreement and both wish to have maintenance payments documented.

Whether or not you have this including can depend on a variety of factors. One of the most important being whether the Child Maintenance Service’s (CMS) calculation is more or less than what you have agreed with your ex.

You’re not expected to go down a legal route if you can come to agreements and make arrangements for your children. These include their living arrangements and a schedule for spending time with both parents.

Child arrangements can be documented through a parenting plan or contract, which by themselves don’t hold the same legal weight as a consent order, but do hold some weight in the eyes of the law, as they can help to show what was agreed in context at the time.

How can you legalise your child arrangements?

If you wish to formalise these arrangements, we can help you create either a parenting plan or a parenting contract. While these documents aren't legally binding on the court, they’re a great way to help with discussions about your children.

If you’re looking for an accessible way to document these arrangements, there are co-parenting apps available to help you stick to your new parenting arrangements. The amicable co-parenting app helps you manage all aspects of co-parenting in one secure place, making parenting after divorce and separation simpler.

If you're in agreement about your children's arrangements, there's no requirement to formalise these in a court order.

The courts work on a no-order principle, making an application to court only necessary if you do not agree with your co-parent.

If you can’t agree on your child arrangements and wish for the court to make an order, you can apply for a Child Arrangement Order (CAO).

What is the no-order principle?

The ‘no-order’ principle is part of the Children Act (1989) which says that a judge shouldn’t make a decision on the welfare of children in private family court proceedings if they believe it would be in the best interest of everyone, especially the children, to not make an order.

The result of the ‘no-order’ principle is that parents must make as many arrangements for their children as they can without the court’s intervention.

If you would like to speak to a Co-parenting Specialist, you can book a joint consultation below to start your co-parenting journey amicably.


Where can I get a child consent order template?

Although there isn’t specifically called a ‘child consent order’ you can document your child arrangements through a formal parenting plan or contract which, although not legally binding on the court, holds some weight in the eyes of the law.

What is a consent order for a child?

Most of the time, child arrangements aren’t included in a consent order due to the ‘no-order’ principle. Generally, this means that the courts leave it up to the parents to make as many arrangements for their children as they possibly can. If the parents can’t come to an agreement, the courts will intervene. If the parents can come to an agreement, and wish to make their child arrangements formal, one option is to create a parenting plan or contract which, although they are not legally binding on the courts, do hold weight in the eyes of the law. You can speak to one of our Co-parenting Specialists to learn more here.

Is child maintenance included in the consent order?

When it comes to the consent order, child maintenance is something that can be included. Many parents choose instead to formalise their child arrangements, including how much maintenance will be paid. How much child maintenance one parent pays to the other can be estimated through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) as they are the authority that ensures that child maintenance is paid where necessary. Listen to this episode of The Divorce Podcast where Kate Daly is joined by Jack Gillis from Gingerbread to discuss Child Maintenance.

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