By Nel Grimbleby

Consultant solicitor

Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP, Abingdon

YOU’VE been to court about a child arrangements order and it hasn’t gone well. What next?

The first thing to say is that if the court has made a child arrangements order, you are bound by the terms of it and if you breach the order you may be subject to enforcement proceedings and enforcement orders.

Next, you need to know whether you can simply appeal or whether you need permission to be allowed to appeal. If your child arrangements order was made by Magistrates then you do not need permission but for orders made by any other judge you do.

If you need permission to appeal, you are supposed to ask the court for permission to appeal at the time the child arrangements order is made. The problem is that if you had been representing yourself, you may not have known that you needed permission to appeal, or you may have been somewhat shaken by what you’ve been through and in no position emotionally to think about anything other than getting out of the court room.

Luckily, if you didn’t ask for permission you can still ask for permission at a later date, if you need to.

Permission to appeal may be given only where the court considers that the appeal would have a real prospect of success, or where there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard.

Whether you need permission or not, or even if you have been refused permission by the court making the child arrangements order, you will need to send an appeal notice to the court to start the appeal process.

It is critical that you act promptly, as the timescales for applying for permission or making a straight appeal from magistrates are very tight. You must file an appeal notice at the court either by the time set by the court making the child arrangements order, or if no time was set, within 21 days after the date of the decision of the lower court against which you, the appellant, wish to appeal. That timescale will continue to run even if it takes time to get the facts and reasons from the magistrates or judgment in writing from the court. Other timescales apply to appeals of other court decisions.

Going back to the very first point in this article, about being bound by the child arrangements order, unless the appeal court or the lower court orders otherwise, an appeal does not operate as a ‘stay’ of any order or decision of the lower court. In other words, you may need to apply within the appeal notice or separately to the court to ‘stay’ or stop the child arrangements order until the appeal has been decided.

The appeal notice must state the grounds of appeal. These should be prepared considering that the appeal court will only allow an appeal where the child arrangements order was either wrong or was unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings.

Appeals can be tricky and you may want to think about taking legal advice and seeking representation. As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure so legal advice at an early stage in your family dispute may serve you well and prevent you having to worry about appeals at all.