Info & Advice

What to do when your ex won’t let you see your child

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Finding yourself in a position when your ex won’t let you see your child is extremely upsetting, but don’t panic. There are several ways you can get contact back on track and in this guide, we will explain what you can do in response.

Can my ex stop me seeing my child?

Children benefit from having a meaningful relationship with both parents and when this breaks down, it is often not child centred at all. Assuming you have parental responsibility, your ex cannot prevent, hinder, or control your relationship with your child. However, there are circumstances when stopping contact between a parent and child is the right thing to do, especially when there are safeguarding or other welfare issues, for example.

What can I do to see my child?

If you are not seeing your child, you should try to address this as soon as possible. Children grow up quickly, and if you don’t act swiftly, a status quo will develop which becomes the norm. Ideally, talking to your ex about their concerns and attempting to reach an agreement should be your first step, as this helps avoid the time and expense of a court case. If not, then you should move onto the next option.

Mediation can really help a couple agree a schedule of contact. The mediator will take a neutral stance and listen to both sides in order to put together an arrangement you can agree on. They will often draw up a “Memorandum of Understanding”, which documents your agreed schedule and put things in black and white. This can be referred to in court, if necessary, to prove what had been agreed.

Mediation is not legally binding, so if the other party refuses to attend or mediation breaks down, the only real alternative is to apply to court for a child arrangements order. However, before the application is allowed to proceed, you will have to attend something called a MIAM. This is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, which both parties attend by themselves without the other being present. It is not uncommon for a parent who doesn’t wish to engage in the process to drag their feet at this step. Refusing to respond to mediators, making themselves available months into the future, or cancelling at short notice before meetings, can all delay proceedings.

A court application should be a last resort. It is right to feel hesitant before embarking on an application, as it is likely to be a long and exhausting journey. Your case is almost certainly not going to be over at the first hearing and your ex will probably not miraculously agree to contact either.

What does a court look at when deciding contact?

When a court decides on contact arrangements between a child and a parent, several factors come into play. Firstly, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. Courts also examine the child’s age, wishes, and any special needs or vulnerabilities and may request CAFCASS produce a section 7 report setting out their recommendations for contact. The court also assesses the nature of the relationship between the child and each parent, considering factors like the level of involvement in the child’s life and the ability to provide care and support.

Additionally, the court considers the stability of the proposed living arrangements and the impact of any changes on the child’s routine and emotional well-being. The parents ability to cooperate and facilitate contact, as well as any history of violence or abuse, is examined too.

Furthermore, the court takes into account any allegations and evidence of parental alienation or attempts to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent. They may seek input from social workers, guardians, or other professionals involved with the family to gather a comprehensive understanding of the situation.

Ultimately, the court aims to reach a decision that serves the best interests of the child, promoting their welfare and ensuring they have meaningful relationships with both parents where safe and appropriate.

I have a court order, but my ex still refuses to let our child attend contact. What can I do?

If your ex-partner is refusing to comply with a court-ordered contact arrangement, there are legal steps you can take to enforce your rights as a parent. Here’s what you can do:

  • The first step is to consult with a family law solicitor who can advise you on the best course of action based on your specific circumstances. They can help you understand your rights and the options available to you.
  • In some cases, mediation can help resolve disputes outside of court. A mediator can facilitate discussions between you and your ex-partner to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on contact arrangements.
  • If mediation fails or is not appropriate, you can apply to the court to enforce the contact order. This may involve applying for a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order, depending on the circumstances.
  • If your ex-partner’s refusal to comply with the court order amounts to contempt of court, you can bring this to the attention of the court. Contempt of court carries serious consequences, including fines or imprisonment.
  • In some cases, it may be necessary to apply to the court to vary the existing contact order to better suit the child’s needs or address any concerns that may contribute to your ex-partner’s refusal to comply.
  • Keep detailed records of all communication with your ex-partner, including any refusals or attempts to obstruct contact. This documentation can be valuable evidence if the matter goes to court.
  • The Child Arrangement Programme (CAP) is designed to help parents resolve disputes about children outside of court. It involves attending a series of meetings to discuss issues and hopefully reach an agreement.

Remember that each case is unique, and the appropriate course of action will depend on the specific circumstances involved. Seeking legal advice early on can help you navigate the process and protect your relationship with your child.

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