Can a child apply for a child arrangements order?

Most applications for child arrangements orders (i.e. orders setting out with whom the child should live, and if with only one parent, what contact the child should have with the other parent) are, of course, made by one of the parents of the child.

But what if the child themselves wished to apply for an order regulating with which parent they should live, or what contact they should have with the other parent? Is that possible?

The answer is that it is indeed possible, although the child will first need to obtain the leave, or permission, of the court to make the application.

The court may only grant leave if it is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application.

A rare example of this in action was reported in a recently published judgment of the High Court in London.

The case concerned a 15 year old girl who wished to apply for a child arrangements order permitting her to live with her mother for the majority of the time.

She had essentially been living with her father since 2016, but her parents had since then been in conflict over where she should live, and she had actually wanted to live with her mother for some years.

She therefore applied in early 2020 for leave to make a child arrangements application. Initially the court refused leave, but she appealed against that decision.

Her father recognised that as every day passed she was becoming more mature, and he therefore accepted that the appeal should be allowed, which it was.

The girl proceeded with her child arrangements application.

Hearing the application in July 2021, Mrs Justice Judd felt it was right that she should accede to the girl’s wishes and feelings given her age, intelligence, and how long they had endured.

Accordingly, Mrs Justice Judd made an order providing for the girl to spend the majority of her time living with her mother.

She did however point out that when the girl reaches the age of 16 she will, from the perspective of the court, be able to choose her own living arrangements. It was therefore agreed that the order should not go beyond the end of the school year in 2022.

The full report of the judgment can be found here.

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