Contact with your child
Child Contact: 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
Child contact rights?
There is actually no parental right of contact with children. Contact is the right of a child, not the parent. If you and your child’s mother are unable to agree arrangements for contact and residence, you will need to turn to the family courts for help. Whilst courts will not unreasonably prevent contact, all decisions are based on the welfare of the child.
Issues around residence and child contact 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 contact?
There is no one contact option that can be described as being the best. Each situation will be different to the next. What’s important is, not the contact options that you arrive at but that 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 contact 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.
Contact 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 sms
What types of contact are there?
Though not strictly speaking contact, you may agree that your child lives mostly with you.
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 residence 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...