Making child arrangements if you divorce or separate

Change or enforce an order

You can change an existing court order or consent order. You can also ask a court to enforce an order if your ex-partner is not following it.

If you ask the court to change or enforce an order, you’ll probably have to go to a court hearing. You can usually avoid this if you get help outside of court instead.

Change an order

You can decide to do something different from the court order, if you both agree. But you will not be able to enforce this later on unless you make it legally binding.

Make a change legally binding

If you both agree, you can draft a consent order to cover the new agreement and ask the court to approve it.

If you cannot agree, you can ask a court to decide how to change (‘vary’) the order.

Enforce an order

If your ex-partner is not following the order, you can ask the court to enforce it. Follow these steps.

  1. Fill in form C79 to apply - read guidance CB5 if you need help.

  2. Use form C78 to attach a ‘warning notice’ if your order was made before 8 December 2008. Orders made after this date will already include one.

  3. Send it to the court nearest to you that deals with cases involving children. It costs £215.

The court will look at the facts again to see if anything has changed.

If the court enforces the order

Depending on your situation and what you’ve asked the court to decide they might make:

  • an ‘enforcement order’ - this means your ex-partner has to do between 40 and 200 hours of unpaid work
  • an ‘order for compensation for financial loss’ - this means your ex-partner has to pay back any money you’ve lost because they did not follow the order (for example if you missed a holiday)

You can go back to the court if your ex-partner still does not do as the court ordered.

If the court does not enforce the order

The court might not enforce the existing order if they think that your ex-partner is not following it because:

  • they have a good reason
  • it’s better for your children to do something different

You can go back to the court if you do not agree with their decision or your situation changes.

End an order

Use form C100 to apply to end (‘discharge’) a court order that’s not working, or is not relevant to you and your children any more.

If your order ends at a fixed time (‘time-limited’), you can make your own agreement afterwards. You can get help to agree.