Coming to an agreement on a parenting plan following a separation can be very difficult, especially since it is often a time where emotions are running high. Sometimes this can interfere with parents’ ability to compromise and make decisions on subsequent child arrangements. However, the priority in this situation should always be the welfare of the children involved, and so parents must be able to prioritise this over their own feelings of resentment or anger.

Ideally, it will be possible for parents to agree on arrangements for their children, but if they are not able to, they should seek legal advice to help resolve their disputes. This blog will take you through the various stages involved in creating a shared parenting plan.


In many cases, parents will be advised to try to reach an agreement via family mediation. The mediator is an independent third party whose role is to help both parents reach an agreement over child arrangements. They will help you resolve any differences without taking sides.

Importantly, a mediator is not a relationship counsellor; the sessions will not help you directly work through your personal issues with one another. Rather, they will help you agree on the details of how you will look after your children such as where they will live, when they spend time with each parent and for how long as well as child maintenance payments.

If a mediator helps you agree on the terms of a shared parenting plan, you can then ask a solicitor to assist you in making your agreement legally binding.


If you are unable to resolve your differences via mediation, the next stage will be to make an application to the court. It is important to note that, if applying tot eh court,  you must be able to show that you have attempted mediation first. There are few cases when this does not apply, for example, when there has been domestic abuse if social services are involved.

Given that court is viewed as a last resort, co-parents generally have to exhaust all available options before this can be considered. At this stage, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order, Specific Issue Order, or Prohibited Steps Order. Unless there are exceptional circumstances (e.g., the child has special educational or behavioural needs), the family court will be reluctant to enforce any of these orders beyond the age of 16.

Child arrangements order

This order sets out where the children will live and/or how much time they will spend with the other parent. If both parents want the children to live with them, either can apply to the court and a decision will be made.

Specific issues order

A specific issue order deals with questions surrounding a child’s upbringing, such as which school they should attend. Similarly, it deals with whether a parent can take the child on holiday, relocate to a different part of the country, or move abroad permanently.

Prohibited steps order

A prohibited steps order – as the name suggests – will prohibit the other party from a certain act or action such as relocating abroad with the child, changing their surname, or exercising their parental responsibility in some other way.

Contact our Family Team at Vyman

Our family team are experienced solicitors who have been providing specialist advice in this area to a diverse range of clients for many years. Whatever your circumstances, speak to one of our trusted practitioner’s today to discuss your case.

For a brief informal chat or to arrange an initial appointment, call us today on 0208 427 9080 or complete our online enquiry form and we’ll be in touch.

This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.