Having Contact with Your Children

parent

Relationship breakdown is a very painful time for the adults involved, but it can be even more difficult for children.

Children within the family are often the innocent and confused casualties of the breakdown of a relationship.

What if I can’t agree contact arrangements with my ex-partner?

Many parents are able to agree between themselves arrangements for their children which enable them to continue to enjoy a relationship with both parents.

For many other families contact arrangements cannot be agreed.  Some parents choose to engage in mediation as a means of trying to negotiate a solution.

Where mediation is not suitable or has proved unsuccessful, an application can be made to Family Courts to resolve the issue of contact.

Children proceedings are dealt with by the Family Proceedings Court – in this Court,  the child’s best interests are the primary concern. This means that the main focus will always be on the welfare of the child first, rather than the rights of either parent.  It is a commonly held view that (if safe and appropriate) a child should enjoy a relationship with both parents.

What will the Court look at when deciding on contact arrangements?

Each family is a unique group of individuals and in considering an application for contact, the Court will look at the particular circumstances of the child and family in question.   Contact arrangements will differ depending on the circumstances of each family.

The views and the feelings of the child involved are also taken into account and a Court Children’s Officer (who is essentially, a Court-appointed Social Worker) may be asked to speak with the children individually to try to ascertain what these are.

How much weight is given to a particular child’s wishes will depend upon the age and understanding of that child: for example the views of a 14 year old child would weigh more heavily in influencing decisions than those of an 8 year old child.

Additionally, a child will not be forced to have contact with someone they are afraid of or who harms them in any way.

What is a Contact Order?

Contact Orders are Court Orders which set out the arrangements for when the non-resident parent can see their children.

Contact arrangements can vary in each case and therefore there are many different Contact Orders which a Court could make including the following:-

  • Indirect Contact – for example,  the exchange of letters, cards and e-mails between parent and child with no regular visits
  • Direct Contact – regular weekly contact between the child and parent
  • Overnight Contact
  • Holiday contact – for example, additional contact at Easter, summer or Christmas.

Contact can also be supervised in cases where the Court directs that a relative or social worker must be present during visits.

How do Court proceedings conclude?

In most cases, Orders are made by agreement between the parents with the help of their legal advisors; this is the most preferable method, as Orders which are made with the consent of both parents are much more likely to work successfully in the future and reduce antagonism between the parties. However where agreement cannot be reached, the Court will fully hear arguments from both parents and will ultimately make a Contact Order which is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

When seeking a Solicitor to deal with this particular kind of case, it is important that you look for not only legal representation and good negotiation skills; your Solicitor should be understanding and be capable of supporting mothers and fathers through this difficult period in life whilst progressing towards a workable arrangement which is in your child’s best interests.

If you require any further information, please contact us here or email us at info@fhanna.co.uk

Having Contact with your Grandchildren

grandparentsToday marks the UK’s ‘National Grandparent’s Day

The bond between a grandparent and their grandchild is often regarded as one of the most precious relationships in life.

Grandparents are free of the stresses of parenting and can simply enjoy a fun and loving relationship with their grandchild.

Often this relationship can be of great benefit, not only to both grandparent and grandchild but also to busy parents who can have some valued time off from parenting.

But what happens to those grandparents for whom a relationship with their grandchild is impossible due to refusal by either or both parents to allow them to have contact time with their grandchildren? Often this can happen when the parents have separated and acrimony develops amongst the wider family.

I am not being allowed to see my grandchild – what can I do?

If you are a grandparent who is being refused contact with your grandchild, you can make an application to the Court for a Contact Order.

What is a Contact Order?

A Contact Order would allow you Court-ordered contact with your grandchild. This application would be made under the Children Order (NI) 1995.

What is the process for applying for a Contact Order?

At first instance, you must seek permission from the Court to bring an application for a Contact Order. Permission is normally sought at the same time as making the actual application and in all but exceptional circumstances this permission is granted. Once permission has been granted, the Court then considers in more general terms your application for contact.

Who would be involved in contact proceedings?

The Court then considers in more general terms the grandparent’s application for contact. Each parent would be a party in this application. They are entitled ask the Court to consider any objections which they may have in relation to contact.

What does the Court have to consider when making a Contact Order?

The Court would consider all the circumstances of the case and in particular the best interests of the grandchild involved. The Court may ask a Court appointed social worker, known as a Court Children’s Officer, to speak to your grandchild in order to establish what his/her views are in relation to having conatct with you. Your grandchild’s views will be taken into account however how much weight the Court places on their views will depend on their age and understanding – the Court is will consider the wishes and feelings of a 13 year old much more than they would of a 5 year old.

How much contact can I expect to get with my grandchild?

Whilst Courts are sympathetic to grandparent’s applications for contact and are aware of the importance of such a relationship, a grandparent would not generally expect as much contact as a parent who is living apart from his/her children.

In some exceptional circumstances a grandparent may apply for their grandchild to reside with them. This would generally be in cases where the parents are not providing adequate care for their child. In these cases, a grandparent could apply for a Residence Order. If a grandparent is awarded a Residence Order, they automatically acquire Parental Responsibility for the child for so long as the Order remains in place. this means that they can have a right to make decisions that are in their grandchild’s best interests.

It is of course of benefit to all concerned if contact arrangments can be agreed between parents and grandparents without having to go through the Courts. However, it is no doubt reassuring to many grandparents that they are able to exercise grandparent’s rights via the Court if they are being refused contact with their grandchild.

If you would like any further information on the issue of grandparent contact, please feel free to contact us directly here or on email at kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or alternatively leave your comments confidentially below

Having Contact with Your Children

parent

Relationship breakdown is a very painful time for the adults involved, but it can be even more difficult for children.

Children within the family are often the innocent and confused casualties of the breakdown of a relationship.

What if I can’t agree contact arrangements with my ex-partner?

Many parents are able to agree between themselves arrangements for their children which enable them to continue to enjoy a relationship with both parents.

For many other families contact arrangements cannot be agreed.  Some parents choose to engage in mediation as a means of trying to negotiate a solution.

Where mediation is not suitable or has proved unsuccessful, an application can be made to Family Courts to resolve the issue of contact.

Children proceedings are dealt with by the Family Proceedings Court – in this Court,  the child’s best interests are the primary concern. This means that the main focus will always be on the welfare of the child first, rather than the rights of either parent.  It is a commonly held view that (if safe and appropriate) a child should enjoy a relationship with both parents.

What will the Court look at when deciding on contact arrangements?

Each family is a unique group of individuals and in considering an application for contact, the Court will look at the particular circumstances of the child and family in question.   Contact arrangements will differ depending on the circumstances of each family.

The views and the feelings of the child involved are also taken into account and a Court Children’s Officer (who is essentially, a Court-appointed Social Worker) may be asked to speak with the children individually to try to ascertain what these are.

How much weight is given to a particular child’s wishes will depend upon the age and understanding of that child: for example the views of a 14 year old child would weigh more heavily in influencing decisions than those of an 8 year old child.

Additionally, a child will not be forced to have contact with someone they are afraid of or who harms them in any way.

What is a Contact Order?

Contact Orders are Court Orders which set out the arrangements for when the non-resident parent can see their children.

Contact arrangements can vary in each case and therefore there are many different Contact Orders which a Court could make including the following:-

  • Indirect Contact – for example,  the exchange of letters, cards and e-mails between parent and child with no regular visits
  • Direct Contact – regular weekly contact between the child and parent
  • Overnight Contact
  • Holiday contact – for example, additional contact at Easter, summer or Christmas.

Contact can also be supervised in cases where the Court directs that a relative or social worker must be present during visits.

How do Court proceedings conclude?

In most cases, Orders are made by agreement between the parents with the help of their legal advisors; this is the most preferable method, as Orders which are made with the consent of both parents are much more likely to work successfully in the future and reduce antagonism between the parties. However where agreement cannot be reached, the Court will fully hear arguments from both parents and will ultimately make a Contact Order which is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

When seeking a Solicitor to deal with this particular kind of case, it is important that you look for not only legal representation and good negotiation skills; your Solicitor should be understanding and be capable of supporting mothers and fathers through this difficult period in life whilst progressing towards a workable arrangement which is in your child’s best interests.

If you require any further information, please contact us below or email us at info@fhanna.co.uk