The evidence suggests that the children who adjust best to family separation are those that are able to maintain contact with both parents. Dad Info looks at different types of child contact and how to agree arrangements
There is actually no parental right to spend time with children. It is the right of a child, not the parent. If you and your child’s mother are unable to agree who the child is to live with and spend time with, you will need to turn to the family courts for help. Whilst courts will not unreasonably prevent a parent from spending with their child, all decisions are based on the welfare of the child.
Issues around child arrangements can be very sensitive for parents. It is important that you try to reach sensible and flexible arrangements with your child’s mother. It will be better for your children if you can and it is far better to have reached a negotiated settlement than have one imposed upon you.
How do we agree child arrangements?
There is no one option that can be described as being the best. Each situation will be different to the next. What’s important is the arrangements you agree are in your child’s best interests rather than yours or your child’s mum. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that you are making plans for your child’s future if you are in a state of emotional turmoil.
What are the child arrangements options?
Some arrangements will be relaxed with parents agreeing through ongoing discussion. Others will be specific in terms of times and dates. Bear in mind that children, especially younger ones, like routine. Try to get a balance between being inflexible and being unpredictable.
Spending time with a child can either be direct, for example:
- night stays
- face-to-face meetings
or indirect, for example:
- by letter
- by telephone
- by email
- video calling and social media
What types of contact are there?
A Child Arrangement Order for your child to live with you
Though not strictly speaking contact, you may agree that your child lives mostly with you.
A Child Arrangements Order for the child to live with both parents
This is where a child lives with both parents. Arrangements around time spent with each parent and patterns of contact vary greatly.
Staying contact (Called “residential contact” in Scotland)
Where shared care arrangement is not appropriate, a contact arrangement where a child lives mostly with one parent but sometimes stays with the other may work. This could be one night a week, one weekend in two or simply a few days in every school holiday.
If one parent does not have suitable accommodation or there is some other reason why an overnight stay may not be practical this offers an alternative.
This may be decided by a court where there are particular problems, for example, when there are high levels of conflict. This usually takes place at a supervised contact centre.
Where no direct contact is permitted it is important to use other methods of keeping in touch with your children. This might be through letters, postcards, gifts, telephone calls or emails.
Other useful articles about child contact…
About the author
Clare Kirby qualified as a lawyer in 1983 and worked for several years in industry. She founded Kirby & Co in 1997. As a member of Resolution and an advanced member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel she is experienced and respected in the field of family law. Trained as a collaborative lawyer, Clare offers clients a range of options – traditional, and collaborative law – to best meet the needs of the individual clients.
Updated: February 2018