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Contact Orders

What is a Contact Order?

A Contact Order is a historic order which placed responsibility on the named individual(s) to provide the child for contact for the periods of time set out in the Contact Order. Since 22nd April 2014, contact orders have been replaced by Child Arrangements Orders.

Also refer to our guide on Child Arrangements Orders:

Child Arrangements Orders

How long do contact orders last?

Until the child is 16, or 18 in exceptional circumstances and where stated in the court order. If you moved back in with your ex-partner (the resident parent), any contact order will cease after a period of 6 continuous months of your living together. The same is true of child arrangements orders.

Are the different types of contact?

Yes. There are two types of contact, direct and indirect. Direct contact includes staying contact (overnight), visiting contact or supervised contact (in a contact centre or with a third party present). Indirect contact includes contact by phone and via correspondence.

Restrictions on contact and resident parents

It should be noted that parents with a historic residence order, or a new child arrangements order where they are named as a person with whom the child lives, are entitled to take the children abroad on holiday for up to a month without a contact parent´s or the court´s consent.

A parent named in the new child arrangements order as having the child spend time with them or otherwise have contact, must have the court´s consent (normally via a specific issue order) or the consent of the parent named in the child arrangements order as the one with whom the child lives (the same is the case if the other parent has a historic and unvaried residence order).

Do existing residence and contact orders still stand?

In reality, yes. However you'll be treated as if you are named in a Child Arrangements Order BUT... your status will still be as a person with whom the child lives, or a person with whom a child visits or otherwise has contact, and the legal rights conferred by each ARE NOT the same. So practically, you're still the resident or non-resident (contact) parent, and it makes no difference whether you have your existing order or the new one, albeit the court now has wider powers to enforce residence and shared residence orders.

I've applied for a contact/residence, do I need to make a fresh application?

No. If you applied for residence, you'll be treated as having applied for a child arrangements order, and wanting to be named as having the child live with you, while if you applied for contact, you'll be treated as having applied for a child arrangements order, wishing to spend time with your child or otherwise have contact. Child arrangements order may also name the child as living with both parents albeit at different times/locations (which we used to refer to as shared residence.

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Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

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