CONTACT ORDERS – CHILD CONTACT

When it comes to child contact the well being of the child is paramount and comes before those of the parents. The court will consider what is in the best interest of the child beyond those of anyone else as the child has to be protected and the court takes on a parental role in this regard. Rather than rush to court on child contact issues the parents should put away their personal feelings and unselfishly put their child first some people might find this difficult but it is essential.

Going to court is expensive, there are things a parent who is denied contact can do to try to avoid the court route, and firstly if contact is stopped they should without delay send a letter to the other parent requesting that contact be given. If this fails they could try to get a relative to act as a go between and negotiate the reinstatement of the contact, if that fails they should contact a solicitor.

If the parties agree written arrangements it does not prevent court action if those arrangements breakdown.

A solicitor might well be able to work out an agreement with the other parent’s lawyer so a hearing would then be unnecessary. If this is not possible they might be able refer the parents to a mediator with each party paying 50% of the mediation cost.

If all fails the legal process can be used it can take a long time as the courts are busy and delayed can lead to alienation.

Where the court is satisfied that domestic violence is not an issue, the parties will be encouraged to explore the possibility of agreeing arrangements about their children. If the parties reach agreement, the court can make orders by consent if this is in the child’s best interests.

The court has powers to enforce contact orders breach of an Order without reasonable excuse can lead to contempt proceedings. A judge can attached a warning notice to a contact order about the consequences of breaching the order which can include a fine, imprisonment or a suspended sentence, unpaid work in the community and paying the other parent compensation for wasted travel expenses where contact did not occur.

Contact order lasts until a child is 16 and can be varied if lives change. Contact could include telephone calls and letters.

Grandparents can also make an application via the courts to be considered for contact if they have been denied contact with their grandchildren.

This guide is intended as general information only and it does not seek to summarise the relevant legislation which is a complex and technical area of law. Please bear in mind that peoples circumstances can be very different