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What are valid reasons to stop a father/mother seeing their child?

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What are valid reasons to stop a father/mother seeing their child?

When you go through the separation and divorce process, it often throws up issues you had previously turned a blind eye to, or felt you could adequately protect your child from because you were always there. So, is there anything you can do to stop your ex from seeing your child? Read on for valid reasons the court will accept and for the best way to deal with such a situation.

Parents rights

Both parents have rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. It is important at this stage to reiterate that the court does not favour mothers over fathers when deciding family law issues because it always prioritises the best interests of the child. It may appear that the court tends to favour mothers, but this is because, in general, they take on the bulk of caring responsibilities for the children during the relationship, and court decisions reflect this fact. The starting point for the court is to give both parents time with the child whilst trying to ensure stability and minimise disruption.

What are the main reasons for stopping a parent seeing their child?

Sometimes, the court may make an order preventing a parent from seeing their child, however there must be a good reason which is linked to the child’s welfare. Valid reasons to stop contact include:

  • Domestic abuse and violence, although this does not necessarily have to be directed towards the child
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Criminal activity
  • Risk of physical or psychological harm to the child
  • Other behaviour or activities that could put the child’s welfare at risk

Reasons that are NOT sufficient for the court to end contact include:

  • Refusal to pay child maintenance
  • Persistently dropping a child off late or being late to collect them
  • Not seeing the child regularly, despite being permitted to do so

How can I legally stop someone seeing my child?

Withholding a child from the other parent is only possible if there is a risk to the child’s safety and wellbeing. If you believe someone poses a risk to your child, you can ask the court to make an order preventing them from seeing the child.

The court will investigate the circumstances of the case before making an order to ensure it has as much information as possible. It will usually ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to produce a report and make a recommendation.

CAFCASS will initially interview both parents and make enquiries of the police and local authority to ascertain whether there are any safeguarding concerns.  The CAFCASS officer will also take into account the factors contained in the welfare checklist, and, in turn, the court will consider these points when reaching its decision regarding arrangements for the child.

If there is already a child arrangements order in place, a parent can only stop contact if there is a risk that continuing the arrangement will affect the welfare of the child or pose an immediate risk to their safety. If permission from the court is not obtained and contact is stopped, then the other parent can apply to enforce the terms of the order. If the court is of the opinion that there is no good reason for the breach, then an enforcement order can be made which can be supported with penalties to prevent future breaches.

Instead of abruptly stopping contact, it may be sensible to apply for the order to be varied if the circumstances have changed since the initial arrangement was ordered.

What evidence do I need to show to prevent contact from taking place?

To prevent contact from taking place, you typically need to present compelling evidence to the court demonstrating that allowing contact would not be in the best interest of the child or would pose a risk to their welfare.

Evidence may include documented instances of abuse, neglect, or violence perpetrated by the non-resident parent or their partner. This can encompass police reports, photographs, medical records, witness statements, or any other relevant documentation supporting your claims. Additionally, evidence of substance abuse, mental health issues, or any behaviour that could endanger the child’s physical or emotional well-being may also be relevant.

Ultimately, the court will weigh the evidence presented by both parties and make a decision based on what is deemed to be in the child’s best interests, prioritising their welfare above everything else.

When gathering evidence, it’s essential to adhere to legal and ethical guidelines. Avoid resorting to actions that could undermine your case or be deemed unlawful. For instance, you should not engage in covert recording or surveillance, as this can lead to legal consequences and may not be admissible in court. Similarly, refrain from manipulating evidence or fabricating allegations, as this can severely damage your credibility and jeopardise the integrity of the legal process. Instead, focus on obtaining legitimate evidence through lawful means, such as gathering official documents, seeking testimonies from credible witnesses, and collaborating with legal professionals to navigate the process effectively.

What is the situation if the child refuses to see the other parent?

There may be occasions when a child no longer wants to see the other parent or refuses to see them. In such circumstances, the parent with care should try to understand why their child feels this way rather than simply stopping contact outright. The court places the child’s best interests and welfare as their guiding principles in family law, and it is therefore important that any concerns or issues raised by a child are listened to and discussed with the non-resident parent.

If the child still refuses contact, then an application should be made to vary the order, if there is one. Although the court will take the child’s wishes and feelings into account, the parent with care would need to prove that contact with the non-resident parent is detrimental to the child. The child’s opinion of not wanting contact is unlikely to be sufficiently persuasive to the court because of the importance of having both parents in a child’s life.

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