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Hello dear, welcome to JustAnswer ! My name is ***** ***** I am happy to assist you today with your legal issue. I am just reviewing your question. This is an email service so there may be delays when responding. Please bear with me if I need to ask you some clarifying questions. Thank you!
Have you tried mediation with your ex?
Here is an online guide which explains nicely what you need to do to apply for child arrangements order without the help of a lawyer.
You can always represent yourself in a family court. The procedure is not complicated. There are a lot of online resources available for you to use in understanding the whole process. When there are a lot of factual disputes, it will be worth hiring a direct public access barrister or a solicitor to represent you at the final hearing.
People who did not have court experience before tend to instruct a solicitor. But those people who are familiar with the court environment, procedure, forms and confident enough to complete all the paperwork by themselves, mostly represent themselves. Another reason is that there is no legal aid for child arrangements order. Hence, they are cautious in spending money unnecessarily. But if you have a very difficult ex, then it might be wise to instruct one solicitor for peace of mind.
Total three hearings:
The First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
The Dispute Resolution Appointment
The Final Hearing
If parties do not comply or some of the hearings are not effective, there may be more than three hearings, but not very common.
Here is a nice flowchart for you: http://www.familycourtinfo.org.uk/i-need/how-court-works/flowchart-for-child-arrangements-cases/
There could be additional fact finding hearing if domestic violence is alleged and the judge considers it to be appropriate.
I hope that helps. If not, I am happy to assist further.
I am glad I could help. Have a nice weekend !