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Making an urgent or an emergency child arrangements application

Oct 20, 2021 | News

CAFCASS

Urgent and emergency child arrangements applications

Urgent Applications to the Family Court

The urgency of resolving issues around your children cannot be underestimated. Your children, after all, are your number one priority. Mediation is one way of resolving these issues but unfortunately is not always the right way, leaving parents with no choice other than to apply to Court. It comes as no surprise that many parents will ask for urgent applications – after all, as our number one priority applications involving our children must be urgent?

What may be urgent for you as a parent and what is urgent for the Courts can be quite different. It is important that before making an urgent application to the Court you understand what fits under this category.

If you have seen a C100 application form, or have started completing one, you will have noticed on the first page there is a tick box: Is an urgent hearing or without notice hearing required? One of our colleagues, Jack Bickerton, who leads the Family Court Application Service says that many of his clients, coming for support with their C100, query this section. Most feel that it is urgent that they spend time with their children again, particularly where there has been no contact for a long period of time. Unfortunately, Jack often has to break the news that this may not satisfy the urgency requirement for C100 applications and therefore the box is ticked no. Whilst Jack does not give legal advice during the consultation, he will explain the various legal requirements to you, such as urgency. This information can cause clients to rethink their decision to submit urgent applications. Remember, if you are ever unsure you should seek legal advice from a solicitor.

Before making an application to Court, it is a requirement that you attempt mediation by attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). However, there are certain exemptions to this requirement, which includes urgency. Leaflet CB2 published by HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service) explains about hearings and when you do not need to attend a MIAM.

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Exemptions to attending a MIAM in urgent cases

The first exemption is where you or another member of your family are at risk of harm to your life, physical safety, or freedom.

The second exemption states that you do not need to attend a MIAM if by doing so the delay caused would result in:

  • A risk to your, or your families, life, physical safety, or freedom.
  • A risk of harm to your children.
  • A risk that your children may be unlawfully removed from England and Wales.
  • A risk that your children who are already out of England and Wales may be kept there and not return home.
  • A significant risk that the delay will lead to a miscarriage of justice.
  • Unreasonable hardship.
  • Significant problems in dealing with the dispute, such as an irretrievable loss of significant evidence.
  • A significant risk that time taken to arrange and attend a MIAM could result in proceedings being brought in another country, meaning that the case is heard before a Court other than the England and Welsh Courts before they have the opportunity to do so.

Where the above is present and you are exempt from a MIAM, it is likely that your case will be urgent. Court applications relating to child arrangements will be deemed as urgent, usually where there is a risk of significant harm to the children part of the application. Some examples include:

  • Where there are safeguarding concerns that are either causing significant harm to children or pose foreseeable risk of significant harm. This could be that you suspect that their parent is suffering from drug or alcohol dependence that results in danger to the child. It could also be that the parent is struggling with mental health issues that are detrimental to their caring abilities.
  • Similar to the above, you may have concerns around the care of the children, such as neglect where the children are being left home alone for periods of time, are not being properly fed or are unwashed.
  • Concerns around the other parent taking your children out of the country for an indefinite period of time. This is referred to as “Child Abduction” in the C100 form.
  • Alleged physical abuse to the children from the parent who cares for them. This could include physical beating, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse. It also could include preventing the children from accessing necessary medical care.
  • Alleged psychological abuse. It is recognised that abuse does not have to be physical and that bruises are not only external and visible. If you have concerns around potential psychological abuse, such as controlling and coercive behaviour or radicalisation of extremist views, this can amount to psychological abuse and therefore satisfy an urgent application to Court.

Where you have concerns around any of the above you should always report this to the police immediately and request for a Welfare Check to be conducted. A welfare check involves the police calling into the home where the concern is relating so that they can make sure that the person is ok. If the police find that the concerns are present, this can result in the children being put into your care due to safety, health and welfare. However, this can be unsuccessful and result in you needing to make the C100 application for an urgent Child Arrangements Order.

Remember, these are all serious allegations and often will need to be evidenced, either through Social Services, CAFCASS, or police reports. You should never make allegations to attempt to fast track your application, as not only is it a waste of Court time and actually could cause far further delays to your case being heard.

How do I make an urgent or emergency application to the Court?

To make an application for an urgent child arrangements order, you need to complete a C100 form, which can be accessed here. You will need to specify the nature of your order and tick the relevant “Concerns about risk of harm boxes”. You will need to complete the supplementary C1A form, which details those concerns in full and this must be attached to your C100 application.

You should then complete the form as normal, including Section 6, which asks you to “set out the reasons for urgency”. You should keep this factual and brief, giving the reasons for why the case is urgent, taking into account the detail above. For example, you may say “I have evidence that the respondent is exposing the children to extremist material and radicalisation”.

Once you have completed the form, you will need to submit it to the Court. You should use the Court and Tribunal Finder to find the Court closest to where the child or children are living. If you do not know the location of your child, you should also complete a C4 form. It is advisable that you go into the Court in person in urgent cases, so that you are present to speak with a judge if necessary, but you can submit your forms via email.

There is a Court fee of £215 for C100 applications, but this may be waivered if you qualify for Help With Fees – which can be checked and applied for here.

Is there support available?

There are various avenues of support that you can access:

  1. You can get free voluntary support completing C100 forms and going to Court through your local Support Through Court. You can check if your relevant Court has a STC here.
  2. You can get private support at a fixed fee of £60 from the Family Court Application Service. This is a virtual support service completing your C100 form, though please note they do not provide legal advice. You can find more information here.
  3. You can get legal advice and representation from a solicitor.

We also have produced the following guide on how to complete C100 forms.

Child arrangement disputes are rarely straightforward, but usually mediation can resolve them. However, there are circumstances where mediation is not appropriate, leading to Court as the only option. Urgent cases are precisely those sorts of cases and Court intervention is necessary for the welfare of your children. If you have serious concerns over the welfare of your children, you should report this to the Police and/or Social Services immediately to initiate a welfare check.

Want to known more about family mediation?

You can call Direct Mediation Services on 0113 4689593, email [email protected] or complete the form below for a free call back.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to I apply for a child arrangements order?

To apply for a child arrangements order you will need to complete the C100 form. It can be found online and there is a link to it in the text above. The cost for submitting a C100 form is £215, but you may qualify for help with fees.

How do I apply for an urgent child arrangements order?

If you need to apply for an urgent order there is a relevant tick box on the first page of the C100 form that you will need to mark. There is subsequently a section in the C100 form which will ask you for further detail of the urgency. You should take care in doing this. Have a read of the blogpost in full to see what qualifies as urgent.

I am worried that my child is at risk of harm, what should I do?

If you ever feel that your child is at risk of harm you should contact the police and/or social services before applying to the Courts so that a welfare check can be performed. If after this you need to make an emergency application to the Court then you can do so using the C100 form.

How can I get help?

There is a wide range of support available in these situations. If you are requiring immediate help you should contact the police. If you require support applying to the Courts, you could look for a local solicitor who you can instruct, or you could access the voluntary free service, Support Through Court. They will not be able to give you legal advice but can provide you with procedural information. Additionally, if you require quick, private and virtual support completing a C100 form you can access the Family Court Application Service for a fixed fee of £60.

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