Info & Advice

Do I have a right to see my child after divorce?

Divorce can be a devastating upheaval – or bring and sense of relief and freedom. But whatever your reaction as you move out of the family home and begin to build a new life elsewhere, your children will remain a central part of your life, an unbreakable connection to your old life and former spouse.

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Now that you have moved out, you will no longer be a daily presence in the lives of your children, so you will have to find different ways to maintain your relationship – and that also means maintaining at least a functional relationship with the parent they continue to live with. You will need the cooperation of your ex to contact your kids, to visit them, spend time with them and continue to be a parent. It can be a delicate balancing act.

Relationship breakdown

But what if that other parent refuses to cooperate? What if they won’t let your child pick up the phone when you call? What if they don’t bring the kids to the agreed collection point when it’s time for you to see them, or announce plans to move far away? And – worst of all – what if they try to convince your children that you are a bad person and they shouldn’t want to see you at all?

This is the tremendously difficult and upsetting situation faced by many divorced parents. Sometimes, if a couple divorce acrimoniously, contact can be a problem from the get-go – but it’s just as common for the relationship between divorced parents to slowly unravel as time passes and circumstances change. What can you do if you find yourself in this situation? Do you have a right to see your children after divorce?

Rights versus responsibilities

The answer is no: there is no specific right in English law to see your children, or have ‘contact’ with them in legal terminology.

There is no specific right to see your children because family law is centred on the welfare and best interests of those children, and these will always take priority over the wishes of their parents. So, in a contact dispute, the excluded parent will have to make their case and demonstrate that the children had a good relationship with them prior to the divorce – and the other parent can argue against this.

The good news is that, in most cases, a continuing relationship with both parents following divorce or separation will be considered to be in a child’s best interests. Since 2014 this has been the default approach in English law and the courts actively promote contact, unless there is a very good reason not to, such as a suspicion that one parent might pose a danger. Faced with quarrelling parents, family court judges will draft a timetable for contact and specify that this must be adhered to. If the parent the children live with continues to be difficult and tries to hinder time with the other parent, a range of legal orders can be issued compelling them to comply. Talk to a family lawyer for more information.

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