Family law partner Mark Smith explains his experience of  helping parents when an older child is refusing to attend contact.

All too frequently and despite the very best of intentions of both parents, contact between a child and the parent with whom they do not live can break down. There can be a number of reasons and it may be that the child, themselves, have decided that they do not want to go to contact. Once that contact has stopped, re-starting it can be a difficult process that can culminate in an application to the court for a child arrangements order or an application to enforce an existing order.

The difficulty of such an application is that it may not address the core issue where a child, particularly an older child, is refusing to attend contact.  In those circumstances, it may be an option to think creatively, to think outside the Court process.

In a number of recent matters, I have assisted parents by instructing an Independent Social Worker (ISW) to work alongside both parents and the child to help bridge the gap and move contact forward.

The benefit of such an approach is that it can be hands-on and rather than seeking an order. An ISW can roll up their sleeves and do some work on the ground.  By their very nature, they are independent and experienced with working with and children.  It does not mean that it is a replacement to a court application and in certain cases, especially where there are safeguarding concerns it would not be appropriate to adopt such a model.  However, in a large number of cases in combination with a more collaborative approach, it can be another useful avenue to get contact up and running again.