Friday, 7 December 2012


Always seek the advice of a specialist Family Lawyer – word of mouth recommendation is best, but if you’re at a loss for ideas try contacting Women’s Aid or Rights of Women to see if they can recommend anyone in your area.
This Gov.UK page provides a link for legal advice and to check your eligibility for Legal Aid.

If you cannot reach agreement between you, or through mediation, on residence and contact arrangements (either during a divorce or during discussions about revising contact arrangements), an application for a Residence and Contact Order may be made to the Family Court by either parent.  (In future this is likely to be renamed “Child Arrangements Order”).

It is important to note that each case is judged on its own circumstances. The Judge may direct Cafcass to investigate the issues and decide which are relevant for the court to decide. The Cafcass officer will investigate within the framework of the Children Act 1989, taking these factors into account:

(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of age and understanding);
(b) physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
(c) the likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances;
(d) the age, sex, background of the child and any characteristics which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of the parents are, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, of meeting the child’s needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

This kind of consideration Cafcass will give to issues around contact can be seen from their own publication “Time forChildren”.

Amongst other helpful advice in “Time for Children”, pages 12 and 13 set out the following in relation to children and contact issues:

“Children under three may find staying contact more difficult than older children, so particular care and sensitivity is needed when making arrangements at this age

Your parenting plan must be for the benefit of your children and not about parental time-shares. If you do not focus on your children’s needs, they may feel like parcels being moved between addresses.

Your children’s wishes need taking into account. Older children have friends they want to keep and interests that are important to them. They will want parenting plans that allow for their social activities.

Children mature at different rates so do not expect your children to manage similar arrangements to others of the same age; some children are confident and independent, others are shy and clinging. 

Young children may need much reassurance to be away from the place they usually see as home without getting distressed. 

Younger children usually manage frequent, short periods of contact
best; older children may prefer longer, less frequent periods.

Be flexible and update your parent plan over time. As children grow older their needs and circumstances will change, so will yours.

If there is any violence, alcohol and drug misuse, or psychiatric illness in the family, the parenting plan will need to take account of this to ensure the safety of your children. In order to benefit from contact, children must be safe and need to feel safe. Occasionally the risk of harm to the child will be greater than the possible benefits of contact and it may be best for it not to happen at all or to take place where risks to the child and possibly a parent can be kept to the minimum.”

If there is any reason at all why you might be worried about your children in the care of a former partner, even if it is simply a lack of experience which concerns you, you might want to look into supervised contact at a Contact Centre - at least initially.  These can be helpful for imparting parenting skills as well as putting your mind at rest.  Health Visitors at your GP surgery are also a good source of advice.  If you baby is very young, share your concern with your Midwife.

Here are some examples of contact arrangements which cater for the age and needs of of the child. 

Baby: a couple of hours each Saturday morning,

Young toddler: a day each weekend: with very young children who have a short memory span frequent shorter contact is better than longer periods further apart.

Young children: alternate weekends with one night overnight and maybe an evening each week

Older children: alternate weekends with overnight contact, maybe from Friday night to Sunday night; there could be additionally one night overnight contact a week; some parents agree Thursday nights, which would then provide a continuous long weekend every other weekend.

11 and up: often have sport or other weekend activities and contact must be planned around those. The court will not force a teenager over 14 to have contact with the other parent and at least from the age of about 12 the court takes the child’s wishes strongly into account.

Holiday contact during school holidays can be shared, but would depend again on practical issues such as the parents’ working pattern and leave entitlement.

Arrangements for general and family holidays such as Christmas, other religious holidays (if they are important) and the birthdays of the child, the parents and siblings need to be agreed – it is better if you can do this well in advance.

Special family occasions such as weddings will require some flexibility.

Contact orders or arrangements should always take into account the situation immediately beforehand. If both parents were actively involved in caring that is a different situation to one where one parent has done all the caring and the other is unknown to the child (to give an extreme example). In the first example, overnight care might be possible from the beginning. A parent who has had little to do with day-to-day care, or the reintroduction of an unknown parent will take much more gradual and careful handling. It always depends entirely on the circumstances.

The above guidelines were established in the document “A Guide to Contact Arrangements for Children - THE ASSOCIATION OF FAMILY COURT WELFARE OFFICERS” (which predates Cafcass).  It is still relevant today, as we can see from this law firm’s website.

See also Maypole which is a brilliant organisation – a charity – which can provide useful advice leaflets for a small charge, and will respond to email enquiries.

1 comment:

  1. Children have to face a lot of problems after their
    parental separation and children
    's mental level get so in disorder that they become a little unable to think and learn new.