child smiling at camera, outside in autumn woodland, holding hand of adult whose face is cropped out. concept for children contact

Who are you allowed to bring your children into contact with and what happens if you want to restrict them from spending time with certain people?

The technical answer to this question is that you can bring your children into contact with whoever you consider to be suitable, appropriate and fit for the purposes of engaging and interacting with your child.

The initial presumption is that it’s entirely appropriate for a parent to determine with whom their child should come into contact and spend time with. There is an expectation, of course, that a parent will utilise their parental responsibility to ensure that their children are safe, secure and appropriate cared for.

Who can you bring children into contact with?

There is an expectation that parents will utilise their parental responsibility to ensure that their children are safe, secure and appropriately cared for. The initial presumption is therefore that it’s entirely appropriate for a parent to determine with whom their child should come into contact with and spend time with.

For separated parents, this would include the ability to delegate a lesser level of care of the children to either a partner or family member, and there is no specific requirement from either parent to have the consent of the other.

In fact, there is an expectation that each parent will potentially continue the engagement of the wider family during the time that the child is in their care. This would include grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.

Do you need consent from the other parent?

Technically there is no specific need nor requirement to secure the other parent’s consent in order to create, maintain and foster a child’s wider connections, either with extended family or friends. Indeed, there is a general presumption that children will benefit from such wider connections and that a parent’s period of care of their child can and should be utilised to do so. This might include, for example, grandparents taking a grandchild out for the day.

As we touched upon in a previous article, ‘Are there rules on introducing new partners to children?’, if a parent has particular concern over the suitability of a person their child is being brough into contact with and the issues cannot be resolved, a parent may wish to instigate Court proceedings. They could seek a Specific Issue or Prohibitive Steps Order to regulate the use of the other parent’s parental responsibility.

Court orders that specify who your children can be in contact with

A Specific Issue Order or Condition of Contact might identify as a condition of contact that the child will not be brought into contact with a specific named person or persons. A Prohibitive Steps Order may prohibit the person exercising their time with the child from bringing the child into contact with specific or named persons or allowing this to occur.

There would have to be good justification for this and the onus in identifying why that person is inappropriate will fall upon the parent seeking to restrict that contact.

Clearly some issues would be of significance, such as a concern about drink or drug use or a history of some form of abuse being perpetrated by that person in the past.

What should you do if your ex-spouse’s family talks negatively about you?

This is a difficult situation which may arise with particularly bitter separations. For example, wider extended families may take very much polarised positions behind their family member and are unable, during contact with the child, to withhold their views, feelings or thoughts about the other parent. When this happens, it may have an emotional impact on the child.

In such circumstances, if this can be proved then this may justify a restriction on those persons being in contact with the child, but this would have to be balanced against the benefits that the child would gain by being able to maintain those wider family connections.

Another factor which a Court would take into account is any existent and strength of relationship that might already be in place between the child and that wider family member. As well as the impact and effect of stopping and/or restricting that continued relationship.

As is always the case with child arrangements and care of children, it is generally going to be in their best interests if the parents are able to agree with whom the child is going to be in touch with and maintain a relationship, rather than the same having to be resolved through the Court.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.

The next article in the series will address babysitters and sleepovers.

If you would like to discuss the different types of legal proceedings relating to children, please get in touch and we’d be happy to assist you.