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Today We Wave Farewell To The Statement Of Arrangements For Children Form

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Today is the day on which a number of changes to family law will come into force. One of those changes is that Section 41 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is now repealed.

What does this actually mean?

Under Section 41 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, upon divorce, the Court had to consider the arrangements for the upbringing and welfare of any child of the family who is under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 in certain circumstances). The arrangements for any such children had to be set out in a Statement of Arrangements for Children form which accompanied the Divorce Petition. The Court then had the power to prevent a divorce being finalised until it was satisfied that adequate arrangements were in place for the children.

The form required the Petitioner to complete the form with which included a number of tick boxes. The Petitioner would, for example, need to set out details of the child’s accommodation, the child’s health and child maintenance.

It was preferable to ask the Respondent to sign the form before it was sent to the Court to show that the parties were in agreement. However, even where the parties were in agreement, the form was not binding and therefore did not prevent either party from making an application to the Court for an Order under the Children Act 1989 if there was any dispute in the future. Where the parties were not in agreement, it often just raised temperatures within the divorce proceedings and therefore it seemed to be of little benefit, especially given that it was extremely rare for the Court to delay the divorce proceedings based on the arrangements for the children.

To many, it seems absurd that parents will be able to divorce without having to provide any information to the Court about any children of the family other than their name, gender and date of birth (which must be included in the Divorce Petition). However, there is now clear recognition that most parents are able to sort out adequate arrangements for their children upon divorce without the need for the Court’s intervention.

It appears, contrary to what the government may say, that obtaining a divorce is becoming easier as time goes by.