Do you have to provide contact with your children for your former partner?
The answer is technically no unless there is a Court Order in place which needs to be complied with.
Arrangements for contact
Arrangements for contact with children are set initially by way of agreement. If there is no agreement, then there can be no arrangement to be put into place.
As covered in my previous article, there is no set level of contact that parents are required to have with their children after divorce. However, in general terms it is agreed that it is in the child’s best interest to have contact with both parents. It is the responsibility of the main parent to ensure that arrangements for their children are in their best interest, and are safe and secure.
Concerns over the provision of contact
On a number of occasions, I have been approached by parents who have significant concerns with regards to the suitability of the other parent to safely and appropriately care for children during periods of contact.
There may be a number of reasons for this inclusive of criminal behaviour, drug or alcohol use, mental health issues, or domestically abusive behaviour. In those circumstances often the questions seem to be posed is there to be contact or none at all.
However, the provision of contact with children is not necessarily a binary choice, contact or none.
Effectively, a risk assessment can be undertaken to identify whether certain kinds of contact can be provided where the benefit of so doing exceeds the possible risk and the detriment of not allowing contact between the child and a parent.
This can include for example:
- Reducing or restricting the facility for the child to stay overnight with the other parent;
- Having contact only during the daytime;
- Limiting the number of hours during daytime contact;
- Provision where contact has to take place in the community;
- Provision of supported contact (that is for example within the home of a third party who is present but might be for example in the kitchen making tea whilst the parent and child are in a separate room);
- Supervised contact where the third party is tasked with having the children and parent in sight and sound at all times;
- Provision of more remote forms of contact such as video or telephone; or
- Ultimately reducing to its lowest extent, indirect contact by way of continuation of cards, letters and gifts through the post.
All of the above can be considered and incorporated within Court Orders or can be conditions for contact to be provided by agreement.
Providing contact when there is no Court Order in place
As indicated in an earlier article of course without a Court Order the points above will all have to be dealt with by agreement, and if the parent who is seeking the contact refuses to agree to the same this may mean that contact does not take place. As also indicated in an earlier article generally the advice to the contact seeking parent would be to accept the levels of contact with conditions that may be attached to them even if not felt appropriate or necessary, pending an application to the Court to consider the suitability or necessity of said arrangements.
As even if uncomfortable this will keep and maintain the parent child relationship.
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 look at the rules and approaches for introducing new partners to children.
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.