When it comes to separation and divorce in England, sorting out contact with your children is one of the most important and emotional parts of the process. Sometimes it can be hard to agree what is best; to help you through this challenging time, we have put together a quick guide on how â€˜contactâ€™ with children works after a separation.
Agreed between you
Ideally arrangements for contact should be agreed between the parties. This means that the children do not become the centre of a conflict between their parents which can only cause them emotional harm.
If arrangements can be agreed then they can be recorded in a Parenting Plan which can be signed by both parties to show their commitment to their Plan.
Agreed through Solicitors
A Solicitor will be able to give you advice based on your own individual circumstances. Such advice will always be based on arriving at an agreement which is in the best interests of the children.
Agreed through Mediation
If an agreement in relation to the children cannot be resolved then most parties will need to offer to go to mediation to see if a mediator can assist.
Child arrangements order
If all of the above fail then you could make an application to Court for a child arrangement. This can then set out:
- Where your child lives
- When your child spends time with each parent
- When and what type of contact (i.e. phone calls, webcam or face-to-face) will take place
Child arrangement orders have been in place in the UK since 2014 and replace â€˜contact ordersâ€™ and â€˜residence ordersâ€™.
If needed, the court may lay down in-depth instructions for the contact arrangements, which can cover pick up places, times or other issues which the court needs to rule on. This is useful in cases where the parties simply cannot communicate.
If you and your ex-partner have strong opinions on how your child should be brought up, it is possible to ask the Court to make a â€˜specific issue orderâ€™. This is typically used to state things like what school they go to or whether they should have a religious education or what medical treatment they should receive.
Child arrangement orders are made with the childâ€™s best interests in mind; and the court will consider a welfare checklist that takes into account aspects such as their age, physical, emotional and educational needs as well as how able each of their parents is in meeting their needs.
Shared care arrangement
It is possible for there to be a shared care arrangement. While shared care implies a 50/50 split, this is not necessarily always the case. It can mean anything from one week on/one week off to alternative weekends and holidays equally shared. How this is arranged is done on a case by case basis and depends on what is possible. It is not always favoured by the courts as it may not represent a stable way of living.
How often will I see my child or children?
There is no set pattern to creating a child arrangement order. It is generally presumed that the parent that does not live with the child should have involvement and be granted regular contact. To determine when and how often you will see your child, his or hers best interests are taken into consideration.
Practicalities are also taken into account. If you live near to your child then it is likely you will see him or her more often than you would if you lived 100 miles away. Also, work commitments may need to be taken into considerations; for example, if you or your partner works shifts or travels regularly for work.
What happens if my contact is blocked?
If your partner is blocking contact to your child then you will need to hire an experienced family lawyer. Unless the parent denying contact can prove that contact is not in the childâ€™s best interest, then the parent being denied contact to his or her child tends to be favoured by the courts in this situation.
If you already have a court order, then the court has the power to take action against the parent who has disobeyed the order. The type of action taken can vary depending on the situation.
If you need legal help with child custody issues then contact Barber & Co for compassionate expert legal advice.