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Beviss and Beckingsale
Karen-Lee Watts

Child Contact After Separation

Posted by Karen-Lee Watts on November 24th 2011 in All , FAMILY .

Child Contact after Separation

When relationships break down parties often find it extremely hard to communicate with one another, this can lead to matters becoming increasingly acrimonious especially where children are involved. 

In the event you and your former partner are unable to agree on matters relating to your children you should consider alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, rather than resorting to the Courts in the first instance.  Indeed, in most cases, you are unable to issue Court proceedings without first attending a mediation awareness appointment.  You may also wish to consider attending a Separated Parents Information Programme which provides advice and guidance about how best to help you and your children through the challenges of separation.

Unfortunately, alternative dispute resolution will not be successful in all cases and you may therefore have to resort to using the Court process in order to conclude matters by applying for an Order under the Children Act 1989.  The Orders available are: 

  • Contact – an order requiring the person with whom the child resides to visit, stay or have contact with the person named in the order – this is discussed further below;
  • Residence – an order setting out where the child should live;
  • Prohibited Steps - an order that no step which could be taken by a parent in meeting its parental responsibility for a child and which is of a kind specified in the Order, shall be taken by any person without consent to the Court; or
  • Specific Issue - an order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

The Contact that is ordered can either be direct e.g. face-to-face meetings with a person or indirect e.g. by letter, video, exchange of Christmas cards etc.  Some Orders will be very specific as to times, dates and arrangements for contact; others will be more open with detailed arrangements to be made between the parties by agreement.  In certain circumstances the Order will give directions that the contact is to be supervised by a third person.  Although Contact Orders are usually sought by parents, they can be obtained for contact between siblings or the child and wider family members such as grandparents.

The Contact Order will normally continue until the child is 16 years old.  However the court can make contact orders for children over 16 years old in exceptional circumstances.

Failure to comply with an order for contact may result in the court making enforcement orders which can include an order for unpaid work.  Ultimately the Court could order a change of residence so as to enable the child to develop and promote their relationship with the other parent or for the party who has failed to comply with the order to be sent to prison.  However, these are measures of last resort and only occasionally used by the Courts.

If you would like to discuss child contact or any other application under the Children Act further then please contact Karen-lee Watts or Zoe Gaitskell on 01404 548050 or by email: klw@bevissandbeckingsale.co.uk or zg@bevissandbeckingsale.co.uk who will be happy to advise you on your position.