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Helpful definitions for family court proceedings

09 May 2019

I often hear, ‘I want custody of my child!’ However, the terminology of family court proceedings has changed in recent years. Custody is a term which was changed to Residence and, on 22nd April 2014, this was changed again to ‘Child Arrangements order.’ Knowing the correct terms is very helpful for understanding what outcomes can arise from residency cases.


The correct terminology is a ‘Child Arrangements order’ which will set out the following:

  • With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact (this replaces the residence order)
  • When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person (this replaces the contact order)

Within the order you can also discuss when and what other types of contact will take place between the parent and child.

There was a conscious effort not to have a specific term such as contact or residence to label where the child shall live as it was felt that separating parents were using such terms as a means of having control over the child. Children are not objects’ which can be used to hurt the other parent in a separation and therefore the law was changed to create a shift in attitude.

If the parties are cooperating the arrangements can be as flexible as considered to be in the child’s best interests. There is no magic formula and the parties are encouraged to look at their own circumstances and not to compare with others.


In addition to this you can obtain Specific issue order.

This order is used to look at a particular issue which has arisen or may arise relating to the child which the parents (or anyone else with parental responsibility) are unable to resolve by agreement themselves. So, for example to determine:

  • The school that the children should attend
  • Whether a child should have a Change of name
  • Whether the child should receive particular Medical treatment
  • Taking the child to live abroad


This order is quite self-explanatory. This an order you would obtain if you wish to stop a person with parental responsibility from taking a particular step in respect of the child. For example, removing the child from the country.

Written by Hardeep Dhillon

Hardeep Dhillon is a consultant solicitor for Richard Nelson LLP. With over 10 years of experience, Hardeep specialises in family law with extensive experience in areas such as divorce, judicial separation and domestic violence.

Read more about Hardeep Dhillon.

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