When will a court change a child’s living arrangements?

When parents separate the most common scenario is that their children will spend most of their time living with just one of the parents, either by agreement between the parents, or in accordance with a child arrangements order.

Under what circumstances, though, will the court alter this fixed arrangement, ordering that the child should spend most of its time living with the other parent (what used to be known as a ‘transfer of residence’)?

Perhaps the first thing to say is that if the change in arrangements is agreed between the parents, then the court will almost certainly go along with it, although in such circumstances a court order may not actually be necessary.

All about welfare

Otherwise, if the issue of a possible change in living arrangements is contested by the parents then, as always, what the court decides to do will be dictated by what is best for the welfare of the child. The court will decide this by reference to the ‘welfare checklist’, as we explained in this post.

So if the child’s welfare dictates that there should be a change in the child’s living arrangements, then that is what the court will do.

For example, one of the factors on the welfare checklist that the court should take into account is the child’s ascertainable wishes, considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding. Thus if, for example, an older child expresses a clear wish to live with the other parents, and if the other parent has suitable accommodation, then it is likely that the court will order a change of living arrangements.

But perhaps the primary issue that could lead to a change of living arrangements is another factor in the checklist: any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering. If the court finds, for example, that the child has suffered harm whilst living with one parent then it may order that the child should live with the other parent.

One of the most notable illustrations of this is when the court makes a finding that the parent with whom the child is living has alienated the child from the other parent. In such a case the court may, as a last resort, order that the child should be removed from the alienating parent, and move to live with the other parent.

Of course, whenever it is considering the possibility of ordering that the child should live with the other parent then the court must also consider another of the checklist factors: the likely effect on the child of any change in his or her circumstances. If the court finds that the change could be detrimental to the child, then it will only order the change if that detriment is outweighed by other factors.

*          *          *

If you are considering a possible change of living arrangements for a child then we would strongly recommend that you first seek expert legal advice. Family Law Café can put you in touch with an expert family lawyer – for further information, call us on 020 3904 0506, or click here, and fill in the form.

*          *          *

Family Law Café offers a modern, agile and compassionate approach to family law, giving you a helping hand when you need it and guiding you through the complexities of this difficult and stressful area. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash