Spending time with my child: What to expect

We answer your questions on the thorny issue of contact arrangements. What is reasonable and what is realistic to expect when you separate?

Q: Will contact benefit my child?

A: Research shows that those children who adjust best to life after family separation are those that have the ongoing input of both parents. Children value contact with both parents even where that is small or imperfect.  Research has also show that children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioural problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behaviour and substance abuse

Q: Is agreeing contact straightforward?

A: Many parents find themselves in quite serious conflict over the amount of time that their children will spend with each of them. Sometimes it’s because one parent feels that they aren’t getting enough time with their child. Other times it’s because one parent feels that the other is not doing enough of the day-to-day caring. The important thing is to talk, there are a number of family mediation services which can help you reach agreement. We have put together this article Reaching agreement  

Q: Where do I start?

A: What is important when you come to agree patterns of care and contact is that you put the needs of your child above your own. Start as soon as possible and keep contact consistent, children benefit from a routine and the certainty of knowing when they will see their parents.The division of parenting time must also never become a weapon with which to wield power over the other parent.

Q: What is a reasonable amount of contact time?

A: Each case is different. There is no one type of contact that is better than another for all situations. Primarily it is what is needed by your child, your needs are secondary. You do need to think about how much hands-on care you can realistically provide, how much you have provided in the past and wider issues such as work commitments, getting your child to school etc. 

Child contact types

Q: What happens if we can’t agree?

A: If you find yourself getting into conflict around agreeing contact, you may need to get outside help. Trained mediators may be able to offer a way forward. If things reach a point where no progress can be made, you may need to turn to the family courts for help.

Mediators: agreeing without the courts

Q: Is the law biased in favour of mothers?

A: The law itself favours neither mothers nor fathers. When the courts come to decide any matter concerning a child’s upbringing, its paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.

Increasingly, it is recognised that fathers have a significant role to play in their children’s lives after separation, but remember that judges may have similar prejudices and attitudes towards mothers and fathers' caring abilities to those of the general population. 

The family court: Child Arrangement Orders  

Q: What should I do if my child’s mum is concerned about my caring abilities?

A: Mums can become anxious about a father's ability to provide day-to-day care, especially if they have not looked after the children for extended periods of time on their own. Very often, mothers and fathers prioritise different aspects of caring.

It can be a sensible idea to try and agree a few basic ground rules. This might include bed times, types of food to be eaten, how often clothes may be worn before they are to be washed etc. 

I've not been very involved up to now...  

Q: Once contact is agreed, is it set in stone?

A: The very best child arrangements are those that are regular, consistent but flexible. They also need to be age appropriate. A child who is five may like to stay with you every Saturday night. 

By the time that child is 12, they may need the flexibility to be able to go to sleep-overs. Being able to talk to your child’s mum on an ongoing basis not only helps children but models co-operative behaviour.

Q: What happens if I can’t cope?

A: If you begin to struggle, don’t panic. Talk to other fathers, look at  other articles on Dad.info, get a book out of the library, look to your family for some emergency support.

If you really find that you can’t cope, don’t be afraid to admit it. Be up front and find a new contact pattern that will work. Always remember that it is quality that counts not quantity.

 Separation: troubleshooting


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: September 2017

Hide comments (24)


  • Sherie Jackson
    Sherie Jackson Sunday, 24 April 2016


    I would like to ask as a grandparent if it will be possible for me to be with my son at the contact centre when he see's his 3 children for the first time in 5 months. My son wants me there but just wondered what the rules are.

  • Guest
    milda Monday, 23 May 2016

    what happends when a father has no rights to see there children,but the children want to see there father?

  • Guest
    Georgina Harper Sunday, 03 July 2016

    Where do he stand

    My grandson who is 20 had a relationship with a young lady, she said she was pregnant and he had to take her for abortion he refused as he don't believe in abortion, so she said that she would get a friend to go with her, then she said she had a period. She hid the fact that she was pregnant until she couldn't then she said it was someone else's. The baby is now 8 months old and it has come out in this last 3 weeks it is my grandsons, he has seen the child but she is being difficult, stipulating if she goes to see him at his mums there must not be any visitors, will not allow the child to meet family,she makes arrangements he makes sure he is home and then she says she will get there when she wants, he said the arrangements were that he sees him Monday and Friday [which her mother said he could] as that is what suited them, now he is told she is not sure if he will see him. He is not on the birth certificate, he is a carer for his mother so money is tight.

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 04 July 2016

    Hi Georgina - thank you for getting in touch. Sorry to hear that you are all going through such a difficult time at the moment.

    I think the best thing to do is contact the Children's Legal Centre - they will be able to offer help and advice. Here is the link: http://www.coram.org.uk/?gclid=CMi5iueo8MwCFSQW0wod6qIO5Q

    Our forum page is great for posting questions like this too as we have Dads and moderators who can offer advice and encouragement based upon their experience. The link for this one is: https://www.dad.info/forum/index

    If there is anything else we can do to help please let us know.

    Many thanks again and all the best

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Paul Thursday, 14 July 2016


    Hi I am currently working through some stuff with the ex. We have a 2 year old and I have limited access due to the mother not my choice. It's getting better and I now take him out for the morning. I pay full maintenance to her so when I have him are his needs ie my responsibility im talking Clothes nappies Snacks etc.

    Thanks P

  • DAD.info Team 2
    DAD.info Team 2 Friday, 15 July 2016

    Hi Paul - thank you for getting in touch. It maybe helpful for you to check with the child maintenance people - the link to their website is below:


    It may also be helpful if you post your question on our DAD.Info forum page where I community of Dads may be able to offer advice based on their experiences. We also have a team of experienced moderators who may be able to help you further - here's the link


    Good luck - let us know how you get on.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    mike grist Tuesday, 19 July 2016

    access to my children

    i have been a dad for 12 years and have 5 boys but 1 RIP is no longer with me, i have been trying for long periods of time to see my children day after day, i was a accused father of everything, all i ever did was protect my children from harm yet i was the accused one :(
    i have a son who is 2 now and i had a CSO granted, at least i was able to have contact so i thought. was arranged through social work and Children's panel, was meant be weekly 1 hour, must of had 4 visits with my son back when he was not walking, my ex partner stopped bringing him, there was a excuse every time "oh hes not well" "needed to change his bum" "the fathers not had contact so long would be distressing for the little one to have now", CSO was granted but i was not getting. there must be a rule for that somewhere, does that not count as a court order??

    i have full parental rights etc yet im the bad guy, all i did was good and treated like this :(
    if someone has some clue how i can resolve this please help me
    im already seeking lawyer, but at this time is limited

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 25 July 2016

    Hi Mike - thank you for getting in touch. We have a couple of suggested sites that you could take a look at:

    1. The Children's Legal Centre http://www.coram.org.uk/?gclid=CMi5iueo8MwCFSQW0wod6qIO5Q

    2. The Parent Connection http://theparentconnection.org.uk/

    Both of these organisations should be able to offer help and advice. The Parent Connection has a 'live chat' option with experienced mediators and people connected with the family courts who may be able to offer help and advice.

    If there is anything else we can do to help please let us know.

    All the best

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Liz Friday, 22 July 2016

    Need advice, ex not doing enough

    Hi, Im a full time mother of 3 children who are ages 8,6 & 5

    I have been separated from their father since the youngest was 6 months old. I have been in a new relationship for over 3 years and there are no issues with my partner & ex.

    The issues or rather frustrations are that my ex is just not pulling his weight with the children.
    He has them every other weekend, but rarely do the children do anything whilst in his care. They are becoming bored & I have had many occassions where the 8 & 6 years old just dont want to go.

    My ex makes no effort with them, does not call them during the week, plays no active role in their schooling, homework or general raising of the children. Its always been myself. Im the one doing parents eve, sports day, assemblys, school runs, events they have to attend etc

    Whenever I have approached my ex about doing more and being more involved before the kids decide they dont want to know, all I get is "you made all this" yes I separated from you but we have 3 children to still care and provide for.

    There have been incidents where yes it sounds trival, teeth not brushed, undies not changed, school homework not completed, and most recently suncream not applied. Our 6 year old is a red head!
    Our youngest had a hospital appt & he was having the other 2. He didnt turn up to collect them as he "forgot". I find this disgusting and was angry to the point of tears. I cant just "forget" things.

    Anyway, my question is where do I go from here. I cannot keep going through things not being done, me pulling him up on it and just being ignored. He told my 8 year old to keep something a secret, which I totally disagree with. Never tell a child to keep something a secret from Mum.
    I approached him about it and im just ignored.

    He needs to do more. He needs to grow and realise he has 3 children who arent babies anymore. He needs to do better whilst caring for them and basically step up and be a bloody father! Stop blaming me for everything, yes I ended our relationship but stop bashing me over the head with it. If I say something he doesnt like, he will speak to my partner as though im the child!

    I applied for mediation, he never turnt up on 3 occasions.
    Ive asked him to do more, ive screamed at him to do more, my partner has had a quiet word and said be a father and do more. Ive said il stop contact, he threatens court-he doesnt do enough now so that doesn't bother me. Also, I dont want to stop my children seeing their dad, i didnt make them on my own so why should it all be left to me? Plus he thinks i'll stop out of spite, rather than for the benefit of the children which is just not true. I find it unfair that he gets away with everything.

    Any advice is great appreciated, because I am at the end of my tether with the whole situation

    Reading it back it all sounds so childesh, but there is just no talking to him

    Thank you

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 25 July 2016

    Hi Liz - thank you so much for your comment. We are sincerely sorry that you are having such a difficult time at the moment.

    Please see below a link to a website called the Parent Connection - they may be able to help you. They have a live chat option which is secure and will give you the opportunity to share your concerns with trained mediators and people trained to work with the family courts.


    If we can be of any further assistance please let us know - all the best to you and your children.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

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