It is the right of your child to have contact with both parents and to have a loving relationship.
If residence has been agreed, yet you cannot amicably agree arrangements for contact, you can issue an application for a contact order and a hearing date is then set.
Contact with a child is not a parent’s right. It is the right of the child to have contact with both parents, and to have a loving and secure relationship. In deciding whether or not to make a contact order the court have to have regard to a number of factors. These factors are known as the Welfare Checklist.
The First Hearing
On the date that you first attend court, the hearing will usually be adjourned for a meeting to take place with yourself, your former partner and a Child and Family Court Advisory Service Officer (CAFCASS Officer). This person will meet with you both and attempt to resolve the matter. If you were to agree contact at this stage then you would simply go before the court and explain to the court your agreed contact. The court would then adjourn the case for approximately 8 to 10 weeks, or for whatever time can be agreed, in order to ascertain how contact is progressing. The court would then on the second hearing date review how matters have progressed.
Should the matter not be agreed then the CAFCASS Officer prepares a report that takes approximately 14 to 16 weeks. This involves meeting with the CAFCASS Officer who may well, depending upon the maturity of the children, speak with them to ascertain their views. The CAFCASS officer will visit the child’s school, meet with both parents and any other relevant person. They will also undertake a police check on the parent’s. The CAFCASS Officer will then prepare a report, using the welfare checklist, as to what, in their view is in the child’s best interest. The CAFCASS Officer will then go on to make specific recommendations to the court and the court will not usually depart from these recommendations unless there is a good reason. It is therefore advisable to cooperate with the CAFCASS Officer, although if you disagree with the report you can challenge it.
You would then return to court to ascertain at that stage whether or not the issues can be agreed. If following that report an agreement cannot be reached, then the matter is listed for a hearing with statements being filed from both of you. The court will then decide whether or not there should be any form of contact.
How Long Will it Take?
This very much depends on the individual facts of each case and whether or not an agreement can be reached at an early stage. It could take between 6 months to 2 years.
Refusing a Contact Order
If the other parent of your child refuses to consent to a contact order you should contact your solicitor for legal advice immediately. For special cases, you may have to take immediate legal action.
Types of Contact
A contact order will stipulate the arrangements agreed upon including direct forms of communication such as face-to-face visiting rights; and in-direct forms such as letters, video, text, email and telephone calls etc. You must comply with a court order or risk being in contempt of court with serious consequences.