There are often problems maintaining a child's relationship with both parents during and after family breakdown. This can be due to emotional upset or simple practicalities. In this section, you will find some initial aspects to consider as a starting point. As ever, please contact me if you have further questions.
There is no need for a court order when parents can agree what contact their child should with the parent that doesn't live with them. Often the parents can made the arrangements between themselves. Sometimes, mediation or collaborative practice can provide help. Since the parents are in the best position to know what arrangements are best for their children, the arrangements are often more successful than those imposed by any judge in court proceedings.
However, some parents are simply not able to agree what the arrangements for the children should be. They may need to apply to the Court for help sorting things out and perhaps make a decision for the parents.
Child orders in the UK used to be known as orders for access or contact. By providing an order, the Court requires the parent living with a child to allow another person to have the child visit or stay with them. The other person is usually the child's other parent but could be a grandparent, step parent or other family member who has been significant in the child's life.
If you are a parent but don't live with your child, you can apply for a child arrangements order that provides for your child to visit or stay with you on a regular basis - perhaps every Wednesday after school for a few hours or every Saturday overnight. A child arrangements order can go into quite a lot of detail if necessary, covering the days and times that the child is picked up, where handover will take place and perhaps any restrictions on the contact. Court orders can also instruct that communication between a parent and child is made indirectly, such as by telephone, webcam or email. If necessary, the Order can cover almost any issue that has been raised to the Court's attention.
Support is available from various organisations for parents who have separated and want to resolve difficulties in agreeing child care arrangements. Resolution offer Parenting After Parting workshops which aim to help parents manage the impact of their divorce or separation for their children. You may wish to consider getting support from other organisations who provide information and guidance for parents in your situation. Links to other websites are available on the Resources page.
There are no rules to state how often a child should see their parent. Each family is different and so the arrangements will always be different, even if just in a small way.
Quite often the court orders time for a parent on alternate weekends, so both parents enjoy leisure time with their children. However, this will not work for all families. Perhaps two weeks is too long for young children to wait before seeing that parent again. More frequent visits may be more appropriate, even if it is just for a couple of hours at a time. If you live far away from the other parent, midweek visits after school may not be practical. Sometimes a weekend staying with one parent is too long for a very young child or baby to be away from their primary carer, so the duration of each visit could be built up gradually.
The arrangements will be decided once the Court has considered your child’s best interests and the welfare checklist.
Holidays – You are able to take the child abroad on holiday so long as the other parent with Parental responsibility consents to this. Otherwise, if there is a Child Arrangements Order defining that a child is to live with you then you are able to take the child abroad for up to 1 month
Permanently – If you wish to re-locate with your child then you must seek consent of the parent with parental responsibility. Otherwise, you must obtain a Court Order.
Removal from Jurisdiction – In the event that you suspect the other parent will be removing the child from the UK permanently then you can go to take and obtain an urgent order preventing removal.