Jargon busting in Children Act proceedings
If you are about to embark on private law Children Act proceedings, you are likely to encounter complex language which you may not be familiar with. We have produced a list of common terms which are often used at the commencement of proceedings:
This term stands for the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Sometimes, a Cafcass Officer is appointed whose role is designed to be the “voice” of the children who are the subject of the proceedings. The officer can report to the court and make recommendations in relation to the children, assisting parents in resolving disputes concerning their children’s arrangements.
Child Arrangements Order
This term replaced the old Residence and Contact Orders in 2014. It is an order which regulates who the child is to live with, spend time with, or have contact with. Contact is a period of time spent by a child with the parent he/she does not live with. Contact may be direct i.e. face to face, or indirect i.e. telephone, email, video, post).
Section 8 Orders – Children Act 1989
These orders may provide for the prohibition of a parent from taking a specific action under the auspices of a Prohibited Steps Order. This can include changing a child’s name or removing a child from the country without firstly obtaining the permission of the court. Further, if the parents are in dispute over a certain aspect of the child’s life, the court can be invited to make a determination by making a Specific Issue Order. This can include issues such as what medical treatment the child can receive, education and so on.
When an application is made, a date is listed for hearing wherein the court makes directions. These are the instructions the court gives to deal with what the parents, their lawyers and any experts should be before the next hearing. A timetable will be set down which all parties must adhere to. This is to keep the proceedings running smoothly.
Sometimes, matters can be settled by agreement at the first hearing. However, if that is not possible and the matter is set down for a final hearing, a judge will likely hear evidence and then reach a decision which he/she considers to be in the best interests of the child.
Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.