When a relationship ends, parents are encouraged to agree between themselves where their child(ren) will live and when and for how long the child(ren) will spend time with each parent. There is no requirement to have this informal agreement made legally binding. However, sometimes parents might want to have this made legally binding, and this can be done by applying to the court for the agreement to be made into a Consent Order.
This Factsheet explains how to write an agreement, and how to have this agreement made into a Consent Order.
How do I write a parental agreement?
Any informal parental agreement regarding child contact should cover all the important areas, for example living arrangements and education. An organisation called Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) has produced a Parenting Plan that covers all the practical issues of parenting after separation and can be used as the basis for writing a parental agreement. It is available at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/. You don’t have to use the CAFCASS Parenting Plan but any plan that you write should cover all the important areas.
An agreement that parents write themselves is likely to suit your individual family situation better than a court-imposed solution and therefore be more successful. If both parents can make this agreement work then there is no need to go to court to have this agreement made legally binding,
However, it is important to remember that this informal parental agreement is not legally binding on either parent and so your options are limited if one parent doesn’t stick to your agreement. You cannot ask a court to enforce the contents of your parental agreement.
How do I get a Consent Order?
Sometimes parents might want their parental agreement to be made legally binding, perhaps if one parent isn’t sticking to the agreement. You can do this by sending your parental agreement to court and applying for it to be formalised in a Consent Order. You apply using a C100 form available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-c100-application-under-the-children-act-1989-for-a-child-arrangements-prohibited-steps-specific-issue-section-8-order-or-to-vary-or-discharge. A court will want to be sure that your parental agreement covers all the important areas: the Parenting Plan from CAFCASS can help you to do this. Both parents will need to send their signed and dated parental agreement/Parenting Plan to the court. You do not have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you submit a C100 form asking for a parental agreement to be made legally binding.
There is a £215.00 fee for this application. If you think you may be eligible for help with the fee then you can complete form EX160 (available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-help-with-court-and-tribunal-fees) to apply for help with the fee.
You can apply online using the links above. If you prefer to complete a paper form then you can find where to send your documents by visiting https://www.gov.uk/find-court-tribunal.
What happens if we can’t agree on some issues?
There might be some issues that parents can’t agree about. CAFCASS has produced a Summary of Progress to help record your progress. You can find a link to this document from https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/. You can submit this Summary of Progress to court if you are applying for a Consent Order so that the court knows what you have agreed and what you can’t agree on. The court will then reach a decision on those issues where you and the other parent can’t agree.
It may be helpful for parents to attend mediation to help them reach agreement. Mediators are skilled and experienced at helping parents resolve their differences. They can help parents to reach their own agreement rather than a decision being imposed by the court. You can find out more information about mediation, including how to contact a mediator, on Family Law Factsheet 1 – Mediation.
Where to go for further information
If you need help about parental agreements and Consent Orders you can:
- Contact Suffolk Law Centre (see details on left-hand panel), or
- Check the CAFCASS website at https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/about-cafcass/, and the Child Law Advice website at https://childlawadvice.org.uk/family/.
This Factsheet is not legal advice
Please remember that this factsheet gives general legal information. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, this cannot be guaranteed. It is not a substitute for legal advice. You should always seek legal advice for a legal matter.
This Factsheet was updated on 09 September 2021.
How to contact Suffolk Law Centre
Address: 46a St. Matthews Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 3EP.
Telephone: (01473) 408111