General Disclaimer: Nothing presented constitutes legal advice and the McKenzie Friend UK Network is not a legal entity or in anyway claims to be a 'legal resource'. The resource guide is supported by McKenzie Friends and Litigants in person for Litigants in Person in Family Court. McKenzie Friends provide layperson support as an informed friend under the Family Court Practrice Guidance of 2010. All information is published under the spirit of that guidance. For any corrections of the information, please contact the McKenzie Friend UK Network
Section 8 Children Act 1989
Section 8 Children Act 1989
A 'child arrangements order' means an order regulating arrangements relating to any of the
(a) with who a child is to live, spend time, or otherwise have contact, and
(b) where a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Specific Issues Order
A 'Specific Issues Order' is an order to determine a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.
Prohibited Steps Order
A 'Prohibitive Steps Order' is an order that prohibits a parent from exercising any aspect of their parental responsibility without the consent of the court. READ MORE
The Welfare Check List Under Section 8 Children Act 1989
91(14) Barring Order
A Section 91(14) Order is known as a 'barring order' and relates to Section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989. This type of Order allows the court to prevent individuals, usually parents, from making an application to the court without the court's permission READ MORE
Internal Relocations (Within UK)
External Relocations (Outside UK)
Who Can Apply?
Certain categories of people are entitled to make an application for a child arrangements order under Section 8 without having to seek permission from the court first, and they are:
  • the parent, guardian or special guardian of a child;
  • any person who has parental responsibility;
  • anyone who holds a residence order in respect of the child;
  • any party to a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family;
  • anyone with whom the child has lived for at least three years;
  • anyone who has obtained the consent of:
    a) the local authority if the child is in their care; or
    b) everyone who has parental responsibility for the child.
Where permission is needed, for example an application by Grandparents, the court must consider (Children Act 1989 Section 10(9):
1) the nature of the application
2) the applicant's connection to the child
3) any risks there may be of the application disrupting the child's life causing harm
4) where the child is in the care of the local authority: a) the plans of the authority for the child, b) the wishes and feelings of the child's parents.
Other factors can be considered such as the wishes and feelings of the child.
Grandparents and others: Leave to apply for access - Briefing Paper House of Commons
A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is part of the legal process in England and Wales, specifically related to family law matters. In April 2014, the UK government introduced a requirement for those seeking to take certain family law disputes to court to attend a MIAM first. The purpose of the MIAM is to provide information about alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, as a means to resolve issues outside of the court system.
During the MIAM, a qualified mediator speaks with each party in the dispute (usually a separating or divorcing couple) to explain the mediation process and explore whether mediation might be a suitable option for resolving their issues. The mediator will assess whether mediation is appropriate and safe in the circumstances.
The MIAM was introduced to encourage parties to consider mediation before going to court, as mediation can often be a less adversarial and more cost-effective way to resolve disputes, especially in family-related matter
If any party is exempt from the MIAM or if mediation is not successful, then either party can progress to making an application to the court
Find a McKenzie Friend to help you plan and prepare for your mediation
Practice Directions 3A Family Mediation and the MIAM
The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme
The C100 application is a specific form used in family law matters in the United Kingdom. It is officially known as "Form C100: Application under the Children Act 1989 for a child arrangements, prohibited steps, specific issue order or to vary or discharge or ask permission to make a section 8 order."
The C100 form is typically used by parents or guardians who wish to apply to the court for certain orders regarding child arrangements, such as custody and visitation rights, or to address specific issues related to the child's upbringing. The form can be used in various situations, such as divorce or separation, where parents need the court's intervention to resolve disputes about their children's welfare.
C100 Online Application
Practice Directions: Application to the Court
  Form C7
  Form C8
STEP 3: Allocation and Gatekeeping
On receipt of the application, the court will conduct 'gatekeeping' to determine that nature of the application, whether it is urgent and should be held with or without notice, and to allocate the case to either a District Judge or to Magistrates.
Unless the application is accepted as 'without notice' the other party will receive a copy of the application, will be required to complete the C7 acknowledgement form and to complete the C1a 'Making or Responding to allegations of Harm and Domestic Violence'.

A directions letter will then be sent to the parties with a date of the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment, and a notice that Cafcass will be in contact to conduct their Safeguarding Call.

Practice Directions: Allocation and Gatekeeping
Practice Directions: Urgent and Without Notice Hearings
STEP 4: The Safeguarding Phone Call + Letter
In most cases, both parties will receive a phone call from a Cafcass Family Court Advisor. The purpose of the call is to ty to find out if there are any concerns about the safety and welfare of your children.

At least three days before the first court hearing Cafcass will provide the court with a short report on the outcomes of the safeguarding checks and any child welfare issues raised by each of the parties. This is known as a safeguarding letter.

Practice Directions: Safeguarding
The Cafcass Interview Plan
Recording Cafcass Interviews
Example of Safeguarding Letter
Resisting Contact
STEP 5: The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
Prior to the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment, it is the convention for both parties to file and serve Position Statements.

A Position Statement is a written statement that outlines the person's position, views, and preferences regarding specific issues related to the family matter being addressed in court. The purpose of a Family Court Position Statement is to provide the court with a clear understanding of the person's stance on the disputed matters. Position statement should be no more than 3 sides of A4 paper and should be restricted to a persons position and not contain arguments around litigation or evidence (see source FHDRA and Evidence).

The purpose of the FHDRA is for the court to:

  • obtain initial information about the case;
  • consider welfare and harm issues;
  • determine whether a Fact-Finding on allegation of domestic abuse is needed by applying Practice Directions 12;
  • consider whether any interim orders can be made by consent;
  • to determine whether Cafcass needs to prepare a Section 7 report.
Practice Directions: The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
The Role of Cafcass at the FHDRA
Example of a Position Statement
Practice Directions 12J: Domestic Violence and Harm
STEP 6: Fact Finding or Section 7 Report
FACT FINDINGS   Section 7 Report
A Fact-Finding Hearing in Family Court is a legal proceeding conducted to determine the truth of disputed facts in a family law case.   A Section 7 Interview and Section 7 Report refers to Section 7 of the Children Act 1989 and gives the Court the power to request that a Court Officer (Cafcass, a Welsh Family Proceedings Officer, or a Local Authority Social Services) to report to the court on matters relating to the welfare of the child or children.
STEP 7: The Dispute Resolution Appointment
The Dispute Resolution Appointment usually follows the Section 7 Report. The purpose of the Dispute Resolution Appointment is to consider the recommendations by the Section 7 Report and to determine the position of each party in relation to the recommendations.

It is convention that both parties will submit and serve a Position Statement prior to the DRA outlining their position in response to the Cafcass Report.

At the DRA, the Cafcass Family Court Advisor will speak to both parties separately. The aim is to establish whether there is either agreement with the recommendations, whether there are part agreements (narrowing down the issues), or whether the parties are still at disagreement with little resolution.

At the Dispute Resolution Appointment the Cafcass Officer will usually then update the court as to any progress.

If there is agreement, the court may make a Final Order based on the consent of both parties.

Where there is no agreement, the court will set a date for a Final Hearing.

The court will determine whether the Cafcass Family Court Advisor will be required to attend the Final Hearing to give evidence on their Section 7 Report and to be cross examined.

Practice Directions: The DRA
STEP 8: The Final Hearing
Prior to the Final Hearing, both parties will file and serve a Final Statement of their positions and providing any evidence that they rely on. With the permission of the court, the parties may also rely on witnesses.

At the Final Hearing both parties can be cross examined and both parties can cross examine Cafcass and any other witnesses.

Where there are allegations of domestic abuse, both parties may qualify for a Qualified Legal Representative (QLR) to conduct cross examinations.

After the cross examinations, both parties will be able to provide final submissions to the court. The court will then make a Final Judgement.

Qualified Legal Representatives
STEP 9: The Final Order
The contact arrangements set out in a Child Arrangements Order remain legally binding until the child reaches the age of 16 unless the order specifically states otherwise. This is in accordance with section 91(10) of the Children Act 1989. After this point it will be up to the child to decide how much contact they would like to have with the parent they do not live with.

The ‘live with’ element of a Child Arrangements Order remains legally binding until the child reaches the age of 18, however the Court are very reluctant to enforce such orders beyond the age of 16 unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The Slip Rule: The court may correct an accidental slip or omission in a judgment or order
91(14) Barring Order This type of Order allows the court to prevent individuals, usually parents, from making an application to the court without the court's permission
The General Principles
  • The court can only make orders based on the factors of the Child Welfare Checklist
  • All decisions are made on balance of probability
  • The Welfare of the child is paramount.
  • Parental Responsibility does not provide the right for a parent to have a relationship with their child, it is the right of the child to have a relationship with their parents, if safe to do so.
  • It is an irrebuttable truth that you don't need paid lawyers in the family court.
  • 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 is the overarching principle in determining the issues which divide the parties where the welfare of the children is the court's paramount consideration.
  • 1(2) (a) of the Children Act 1989 provides for a legal presumption that the involvement of each parent in the life of the child will further the child's welfare.
  • 1(3) of the Children Act 1989 the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case, taking into account the relevant parts of the Child Welfare Checklist.
  • The wishes and feelings of the Child. In Re L. Rev, the court of appeal had expert opinion evidence in relation to the impact of domestic abuse upon children. The psychiatric expert evidence characterised the general assessment of children according to their age. A child up to 6 years of age is likely to align their expressed wishes and feelings with those of their primary carer. A child over 12 years of age is generally becoming more informed and more self-determined and confident in expressing their own wishes and feelings. Children between 6 and 12 are more difficult to analyse and access their true wishes and feelings. In this range it may be difficult for the court to determine what weight should be given to the wishes and feelings of the children.
  1.   A Local Authority v SB & Ors [2022] EWFC 111 (15 July 2022)
  2.   Re C&A (Children: Acquisition and discharge of parental responsibility by an unmarried father) [2023] EWHC 516 (9 March 2023)
  3.   A Local Authority v SB & Ors [2023] EWFC 58 (23 March 2023)
      Read the Key Principles from each case CLICK HERE
The Case Law National Archive
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Philip Kedge is a retired police Chief Inspector and the founder and director of the McKenzie Friend UK Network. His aim is to take family court matters out of the hands of lawyers with an ethical business to reduce conflict and acrimony, to provide access to cost effective McKenzie Friend national services, to offer training and to reduce the emotional harm to children.
Phil is the founder of the National
Campaign #lightnothate