Contact problems

If it’s not managed properly, contact with children can become a source of conflict between separated parents. Dad Info offers some tips on reducing conflict around contact and what to do if things start going wrong


Getting contact arrangements right in the first place can save a lot of anguish later on. Here are some things to think about when agreeing contact:

  • try to reach agreement as soon as possible after the separation
  • don’t use contact as a way of getting back at your children's mother
  • be realistic and don’t demand more than you can handle
  • be flexible and remember that contact should suit your children’s needs
  • try to craft a routine that suits you and your child's mother

Reaching agreement

Resolve contact issues by talking, if possible

Resolving disagreements around contact can be difficult, especially if your relationship with mum is not great. But it’s always worth trying to resolve issues by talking first. Something simple may have caused the problem – a breakdown in communication for instance – and simply getting things out in the open can sort problems out.

Communicating with your child’s mother

Try to think of changes in circumstance that may have contributed to the present situation. Have either of you introduced a new partner? Have there been changes to work patterns? Have you had problems around child support? Is your child growing older and needs different arrangements? 

Mediation: agreeing without the courts    

Resolving contact issues through the courts

If you are unable to resolve disagreements by talking, you may need to consider turning to the courts for assistance. Think of this as your last option, though, as introducing legal processes can sometimes create greater division, not less - and it costs; children are put under enormous strain when their parents are involved in court actions.

Before entering the court process, you should get some professional legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in family law. Make sure that you understand how the process works and that you have everything you need to present your case. It is important that you also check your parental status.  

Parental responsibility: you and the law  

You will first need to make an application on a standard form giving brief details about the background or issue court proceedings using the Scottish procedures if you are in Scotland. The court will then usually fix a brief hearing to decide how the application should proceed.

Once at court, you and the other parent will usually get an opportunity to discuss the problem with a court welfare officer. This officer is often referred to as a Cafcass officer. Cafcass is the government agency that is charged with looking after the interests of children involved in family proceedings. 

The family courts: residence and contact orders  

If you unable to reach an agreement the judge will decide what evidence they need to make a decision about contact. You may both be asked to meet separately with a Cafcass officer. Evidence may include:

  • a written statement setting out your views on contact
  • a Cafcass officer’s report
  • a Cafcass officer’s recommendation

At a final hearing, the judge will make a decision about what contact should take place.  

In Scotland

In the Sheriff Court (you can use the Court of Session as well, but it’s unusual to do so, and has slightly different procedures), there will be a Child Welfare Hearing and then probably a further series of hearings in order to determine interim arrangements. The Sheriff will try and get the parties to agree, possibly over a series of hearings. If no settlement is made there will ultimately be a Proof at which witness evidence will be heard, and the Sheriff will decide on what, if any, final Decree about contact/residence to make.

What if my child's mother breaches the contact order?

If the court has made an order for contact then it expects the resident parent to encourage the child to have contact and ensure that it takes place. If they don’t, the resident parent is at risk that they will be held in contempt of court. In such cases, you should seek further legal advice.


Hide comments (4)


  • Guest
    gavin Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    ignoring court order

    my ex is ignoring court order to allow me to have my 2 sons every other weekend i have tried every avenue possible as i dont want to go back to court for the 8th time as it is VERY costly and she ignores it anyway ANY SUGGESTIONS PLEASE Ihavnt seen my boys for 6mths now

  • Team 2 Team 2 Monday, 27 June 2016

    Hi Gavin

    Thank you for getting in touch - the following website may be of help to you:

    It would also be helpful if you posted your question on our DAD.Info forum page where I community of Dads and experienced moderators may be able to advise you further - the link is below:

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Andrew Thursday, 23 June 2016

    At her mercy...

    My divorce was finalised early last year and initially contact wasn't an issue. During a lengthy separation and then after the divorce my two teenage sons staying every other weekend, subject to various school commitments or must go to parties.
    However, everything changed when it was apparent that the relationship with my partner, now fiancée, was serious. Since then, it's become clear that dad weekends are regarded as 'if there's nothing better to do' and there is a refusal to commit to every other weekend, even though I've made it clear that I appreciate that as the boys get older, they will have more social and club commitments that will disrupt things.
    What's more, the boys aren't being allowed to come to my wedding later this year.
    I know I have the option of going to court, however my children have to live through that process. My eldest is now out of scope, but it's been made clear to them by their mother that she will forever hold it against them if they side with me in any way. To the point where they've asked me not to fight it, even though they know they are being bullied and emotionally blackmailed.

    As far as I can see, this is a no win situation. An apparent win for me through the court, would turn into a lose for my children. The only 'winner' is my ex-wife, who can't see that the boys are resenting the situation and will in all likelihood get out from under her control at the earliest opportunity.

    There is no chance of communication, even through a 3rd party and the only communication is via email.

    It's a huge pity that the legal and child protection system offers no simple way to enforce or intervene in situations such as this, without the burden falling on the children, who one wants to shield from the angst, bitterness, lies and unhealthy pressure.

  • Guest
    Russell Tuesday, 16 August 2016

    face to face meeting with cafcass?

    Hi there.
    My ex wife is bringing an application to vary the existing court order to reduce my contact. The original order was prepared using a S.7report and was favourable, giving me every other weekend and 1 overnight weekday after school, plus half of all school holidays. My ex was unhappy with the report and turned up at court with "letters" from the children saying they had made a mistake, and did not want so much contact! The court would not accept them and awarded in my favour (my application), but there were serious issues that were not addressed regarding the mothers controlling and manipulation of the children (( & 11 at the time, but now 11 &14)). After the order was imposed in June 2014 my ex used the Christmas school holidays which were not clearly defined to reduce my contact, causing dreadful problems, by getting the children to 'draw up a schedule of the time they wanted with us (it was all in her favour). II applied to the court for definitive holiday time, but the magistrates were too busy to hear it and it went to crown court, where a judge who was totally unfamiliar granted in her favour.
    Since then, contact has been very awkward and she now wants to reduce it. I would like to have a meeting in person wth cafcass this time, because I know that there will be pressure by the children mother (she will make them write letters to the court).
    Is there a way that as a litigant in person I can get a fair assessment? I just want to see my children and have a fair, but solid arrangement.... can I meet the cafcass officer in person BEFORE she writes the report, or only at court when it is too late?
    I would also like to call a witness to refute an allegation she made that "the police have been called several times - this is nonsense and on the one occasion the police attended, I was told by the officer (and have it recorded) that she had unnecessarily wasted their time, because my son was not upset and was returned in the allocated time) - could I bring the officer (or a statement from him)?
    I am thankful for any advice you an offer.

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Guest Sunday, 23 October 2016