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In most families – even on separation – it is the parents who decide together the time the children spend with each of them. It is obviously best that you do so as parents, as you know what is best for your children.
If parents can agree child care arrangements between themselves or with the assistance of mediation or collaborative law, there will normally be no need for a court order. Sometimes – if it is simply not possible to agree what should happen for the children – there may be no alternative but to ask a judge to make a decision and help sort things out.
The court can make a child arrangements order which is an order determining when and with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact. Until very recently, you may have heard lawyers speak about "residence orders" (setting out where a child is to live - often mistakenly referred to as custody, which meant something different altogether and no longer exists as a legal concept) and "contact orders" (setting out what time a child should spend with the parent they no longer live with - often called access). Residence and contact orders no longer exist (they have been replaced by "child arrangements orders" but you will still hear people talking about the concepts of residence and contact.
The court may refer you to a Separated Parents Information Programme. These are designed to help you make decisions about the children. You would attend this separately from your partner.
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