What is a child Contact Order?
A child Contact Order forces the person who the child lives with to allow contact with someone else, usually the other parent. The Court will consider whether the child should have regular contact with the other parent to enable a continued relationship to exist between them.
An Order can be made to give children the right to see both of their parents. The amount of contact and the arrangements made will normally take into consideration the living situation immediately before the Order. For example, if the father was previously very active in the child’s life before a Contact Order is made then he is likely to have more contact with the child than an absent father.
How old does the child have to be for a child Contact Order to be made?
A child Contact Order cannot be made in respect of children over 18 years old. Any child Contact Order made will apply until the child turns 16 years old.
Who can apply for a child Contact Order?
In all Contact matters those able to apply are the child’s parents or step-parents, those with Parental Responsibility and the child’s Grandparents.
Why do I need to apply for a Contact Order?
If you cannot agree arrangements about matters concerning children when a relationship comes to an end, either parent can apply to the Court for a Contact Order.
What are the types of Contact?
- Indirect Contact – these might consist of letters, emails and telephone calls. This may be ordered if, for example, a parent is in prison, lives far away from the Child or to help assist in re-establishing a relationship after a lengthy period where no contact has taken place, before moving on to direct contact.
- Direct Contact – involves face to face meetings. Occasionally, Direct Contact can be in a supervised environment. This can mean supervision by Social Services, a child Guardian (appointed by the court), a Contact Centre or just by a mutually agreed third party, often a relative or family friend.
- Staying Contact – this is where a parent obtains a court order allowing the child to spend a period of time with this parent, often overnight or for longer periods
- A Living With Order – this is exactly what it says, a court Order stipulating which parent or parents (yes it can be shared) the child lives with
Specific arrangements including the time and date of contact can be set out in the Order. These arrangements can be flexible and unsupervised, but in some instances where there are big disputes between the parents, these types of Orders will have lots of checks and limitations placed on them.
Failing to comply with an Order amounts to a breach and could result to imprisonment or fine. Although it is not common for a court to send a parent to prison for breaching these Orders, it certainly does happen!
What is the difference between a Child Contact Order and Residence Order?
There are various Orders individuals can apply to the Courts for, including;
A Living With Order – These used to be called ‘Residence Orders’. To make the law more in touch with real life they are not called ‘Living With Orders’. This states where a child should reside. The Court can make such an Order in favour of more than one person, stipulating how long the child should spend with each parent.
A child Contact Order – regulates telephone calls, visits, night stopovers, weekends or holidays with the absent parent.
A Prohibited Steps Order – this applies when one parent objects to something that the other parent is doing concerning their child. Most often we obtain these Orders to stop a parent from applying for a passport for a child or taking that child to a specific place or even abroad.
Specific Issue Order – the Courts can consider a Specific Issue Order if parents are unable to agree on a specific aspect of their child’s upbringing. This may be where there are disputes as to choosing the right school for a child, or religious upbringing issues where the parents cannot agree.
In all cases the Order must be applied for and granted by the Courts.
What can we do to help?
Court should always be a last resort. We will do everything possible to try and negotiate between you and the other parent to resolve these disputes amicably wherever possible. If an amicable settlement is not possible, often because one parent is being unreasonable and not permitting the other parent a chance to play a role in the life of the child, we have a team of expert Child Lawyers who will ensure the best possible outcome for you through the courts.
If you need help in this or any other area of Family Law, contact us.