Where parents are separating, there can often be disagreement as to the custody or contact arrangements for their children. In these cases, a formal application may need to be made to the court by one parent for a Child Arrangement Order using Form C100.
The following article to the C100 form looks at the nature of this form is and how it is used, providing practical guidance to making a Child Arrangement Order, and how the court can intervene to ensure that any custody and contact arrangements are in the best interests of the child.
What is the C100 form?
The C100 form is the paperwork needed to apply for a court order to make formal arrangements for a child, as well as to resolve any dispute about their upbringing. An order to make arrangements as to whom and when a child is to live and spend time with, or otherwise have regular contact, is referred to by the courts as a Child Arrangement Order.
In addition to making a Child Arrangement Order, the C100 form can also be used to apply for either a “prohibited steps” or “specific issue” order. A Prohibited Steps Order refers to an order that no step(s) which could be taken by a parent or guardian in meeting their parental responsibility for a child, shall be taken without the consent of the court. This could include, for example, an order preventing one parent from changing the child’s surname or school, or taking them out of the country. In contrast, a Specific Issue Order is an order determining a specific question which has arisen in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child, for example, if a child should have a medical operation.
When is the C100 form used?
A Child Arrangement Order is an order of the court setting out with whom the child should reside, and when and where any contact will take place with the non-resident parent or other family members. Under section 8 of the Children Act 1989, an application to make a Child Arrangement Order using the C100 form can be made by either parent to put in place enforceable arrangements in relation to the custody and care of their child(ren).
As modern families can be complicated, such as with second marriages or children from different relationships, or even where the child’s parents have died or are considered unfit to care for them, it is not always the biological parents that will look to the courts to intervene. Under the 1989 Act, an application can be made for a Child Arrangements Order using the C100 form where the person is any one of the following:
- the parent, guardian or special guardian of the child
- has parental responsibility for the child
- already has a residence order for the child
- a spouse or civil partner of the child’s parent, if the child is part of that family
- someone with whom the child has lived with for 3 or more years.
For those with parental responsibility, this is a term that means a person has legal rights and duties relating to a child’s upbringing. This does not mean that they have an automatic right to spend time with that child, if they do not reside with them, but the other parent must include this person when making important decisions about a child’s life.
In the context of wider family members, such as grandparents, where they do not otherwise qualify, they are not prohibited from applying for a Child Arrangement Order using Form C100, but they must first apply to the court for permission to make an application.
Who needs to complete the C100 form?
If a parent or guardian needs to make arrangements as to custody of their child(ren), and/or contact or access arrangements, they will need to complete a C100 form for a Child Arrangement Order. In this way, the court can make an order as to where a child will live, when they spend time with each parent, as well as when and what other types of contact take place, for example, telephone calls, texts, emails or any other form of communication.
Typically, an application using Form C100 will be made by the non-resident parent in circumstances where there is disagreement with the resident parent as to how custody of their child(ren) is to be shared, or what arrangements will be made for the non-resident parent to see their child(ren) and when. However, regardless of the rights or wrongs of any disagreement, the court will always put the welfare of the child or children first. In making a decision on an application in respect of the arrangements for a child, pursuant to section 1 of the 1989 Act, the “…child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration”.
Section 1(3) of the Act sets out the following welfare checklist for the court to consider:
- the child’s own wishes and feelings, having regard to their age and understanding
- the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect that any changes in their circumstances may have on the child
- the child’s age, gender, characteristics and background
- any harm the child has suffered or any possible risk of harm to the child
- the capability of each parent or guardian to meet the child’s needs
- the orders that the court has the power to make.
A judge will only make a court order if they think it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
How does the C100 form work with mediation?
Before applying for a Child Arrangement Order using the C100 form, unless they have a valid exemption, the applicant must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). A MIAM is a meeting, either remotely or in person, about mediation and other ways of resolving the dispute in question without the need for the court’s intervention. In mediation, an impartial and trained mediator, not connected with the case, will help the parties to find a way forward on mutually agreeable terms and without taking sides.
Attending a MIAM is a legal requirement, although certain exemptions do apply, for example, where there is evidence of domestic abuse. If an application is being made for a consent order, where the living and contact arrangements for the child have been agreed, but the parties would still like the matter to be formalised by way of a court order, there is again no need to attend a MIAM. This is because agreement has already been reached.
An online service is available for MIAMs and mediation, where more information can be found on the Co-Parent Hub or from the Family Mediation Council. There is also currently a family mediation voucher scheme in place, where the prospective parties to a Child Arrangement Order could get a contribution of up to £500 towards family mediation.
If agreement cannot be reached though mediation, the matter will still need to proceed to court. However, in those cases where the parties are able to agree certain aspects of a dispute, the applicant can go on to ask a court to rule on anything not already agreed.
How is the C100 form completed?
When competing the C100 form, the applicant will be required to provide certain information for the court to assess the nature of the order being sought and the circumstances involved in the context of their child(ren). It is very important that the applicant carefully completes Form C100, including full details about themself and the respondent, otherwise their case will be delayed while the court asks for this information.
An application can be made online or by post, using a paper form C100, although applying online will minimise any delay. Having started an online application, the applicant can save their form and complete it later. Prior to completing Form C100, the applicant should read the guidance on “Family court applications that involve children” (CB1) on making an application and what to expect. This can be found at GOV.UK.
If an applicant is unable to apply online, they can instead send a C100 paper application to the child’s nearest court that deals with cases involving children. The postal addresses for the nearest court can be found online using the “Find a Court or Tribunal” service at GOV.UK. The applicant will need to send their original form, together with three copies.
How much does C100 form cost to file?
It costs £232 to apply for a Child Arrangement Order. The cost is the same if applying for either a Prohibited Steps Order or a Specific Issue Order. There may also be additional fees if the applicant would like to change an application that the court is still considering or they would like the court to approve a consent order having reached an agreement with their ex-partner around custody and contact arrangements for the child(ren).
However, if the applicant cannot afford to pay a court fee, for example, because they are either on benefits or a low income, they may be eligible for a reduced fee or they may not have to pay anything at all. The booklet “EX160A Court and Tribunal Fees – Do I have to pay them?” gives all the information that the applicant will need. They can obtain a copy from any family court office or from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service website.
How long does the C100 form take to process?
When the court office receives the C100 form, it will check that the applicant has filled in the forms correctly and included any relevant papers, such as a signed document to confirm that they have attended a MIAM, and provide the respondent with copies. It will also provide both parties with a date and time when the court will first consider the case.
The “first hearing dispute resolution appointment” or directions hearing will usually take place around 5 weeks after the C100 form has been received by the court.
What happens after the C100 form is filed?
After a C100 form has been filed, and the court has provided the respondent with a copy of the paperwork, the parties will usually be required to attend the first court appointment, known as a directions hearing. They may also be required to attend other court hearings, including a final hearing, at which stage the court will adjudicate on the disputed issues.
At the hearing, there will usually be a family court adviser in attendance from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). Cafcass will also usually contact the parties via telephone, and send out helpful information, prior to the hearing.
At the first court hearing, a judge will try to work out what the parties can agree, what they cannot agree and if the child is at risk in any way. The judge will encourage the parties to reach an agreement if it is in the child’s best interests to do so. If the parties can agree, and there are no concerns about the child’s welfare, the judge can end the application process although, if necessary, the court will make a consent order setting out what has been agreed. If the parties cannot agree, the court will set a timetable for what happens next.
However, before the court puts in place a timetable and proceeds any further, the parties may be asked to re-try mediation or to go on a course to help them resolve their issues, known as a “Separated Parents Information Programme”. This could help the parties to find a way to make child arrangements work, although each party will attend separately. If the parties are able to meet an agreement at any stage, the judge can halt the court process.
If agreement still cannot be reached, the matter will proceed to a final hearing for the court to adjudicate on the disputed issues as to where the child will live, and when and where any contact arrangements with the non-resident parent or guardian should take place. In some cases, prior to a final decision being made, the court may ask Cafcass to provide a report to help decide what is best for the child. In these instances, the Cafcass officer may directly ask the child(ren) about their own feelings, although the parents or guardians will receive a copy of the written report once this has been produced.
C100 Form FAQs
What is a C100 form for?
Form C100 is the paperwork needed to apply for a court order to make arrangements for a child or to resolve a dispute about their upbringing, known as a Child Arrangement Order, or a Prohibited Steps or Specific Issue Order.
How much does a C100 form cost?
The application fee is £232 to file a C100 form with the court, for example, when applying for a Child Arrangement Order to make arrangements as to where a child will live and when they spend time with each parent.
Do you need a solicitor for a C100?
While you do not have to have a solicitor to file a C100 form, or to attend court when applying for an order to make arrangements for a child, getting expert advice and assistance can maximise the prospects of a favourable outcome.
How long does a C100 form take?
Having filed a C100 form with the court, it can take up to 5 weeks for a directions hearing, known as a first hearing dispute resolution appointment, although a final decision can take several months for the court to make.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.