We are often asked what to do if a child doesn’t want to spend time with the parent who doesn’t live with them, Gemma Rowe explains the legalities of the situation.
Unless you have serious valid concerns or worries for your child’s welfare, such as alcohol/drug misuse, domestic abuse, abduction or concerns regarding their physical/emotional harm (in which case you should seek assistance from your Local Authority or the police upon how to deal with this moving forward as well as approaching a family solicitor for legal advice), you should not stop your child from having contact with one parent.
Until your child reaches the age of 16 (or 18 in particular circumstances) whereby they can then decide for themselves which parent they wish to spend time with, it is important that your child is able to spend time with both parents. Although it may be difficult you should be encouraging and promoting contact with your former partner and seeking to manage the situation as positively as you can to help all concerned and in particular, your child.
The decision to stop contact entirely from one parent is not only going against the best interests of your child, such refusal will also enable the other parent to issue a Court application against you to establish contact. You will then need to explain to the Court why contact was prevented or restricted so that a formal Order by the Court can be made.
Are you knowingly or unknowingly influencing your child’s decision?
You may need to consider your own behaviour and whether that is influencing your child’s decision in not wanting to see the other parent. You should try to establish the reasoning behind your child’s reluctance to visit a parent, then if possible, talk to your ex on how to handle the situation.
Depending upon the circumstances and the age of your child, it may be possible for you to have a family meeting to address the issue as a group or have family mediation. It may also be appropriate to consider a family therapist or counsellor for your child if they are struggling to deal with the separation or the understanding of the situation.
What happens if there is already a Court Order in place?
If there is a Court order already in place and you have concerns about the current arrangements following any change of circumstances, you can make an application to the Court to consider whether a variation of the existing Child Arrangements Order should be made.
If however, you do not decide to make an application for variation and you fail to comply with that Order by refusing contact as directed, your former partner may apply to the Court for enforcement of the Order.
If the Court subsequently finds that your conduct has resulted in an unjustified breach of the Order, you may be found in contempt of Court with serious consequences that could include a fine, unpaid work, payment of compensation or committal to prison.
Gemma Rowe is a lawyer in supporting parents with child law issues. If you would like to speak to Gemma about the issues raised in this article or another child law issue please do get in touch email [email protected] or telephone 01392 421777