If you’re dealing with a separation or divorce and you have children together, one of the most important issues to resolve can be child access.
Now known as ‘child arrangement’ orders or agreements’, these documents set out where any children from the relationship will live and when they will spend time with each parent, or other significant person.
Divorce or separation can be difficult for everyone, and children are no exception. Under law, the assumption is that both parents will continue a relationship with their children after divorce, unless doing so risks harm to the child. In those cases child access may be supported, supervised, or refused in limited circumstances. However, it isn’t always just parents involved , there can be other family members who will want to maintain a relationship with the children too, such as step-parents, civil partners, grandparents and other extended family, like aunts, uncles and cousins.
As experienced child access solicitors, we can help you to navigate through this process and agree parenting arrangements in a fair way, with the aim of causing the minimum amount of disruption possible to your children. We can also work with extended family members to make child access arrangements, so that the children don’t miss out on those other important relationships after a divorce.
What is child access?
Child access refers to the right of a parent to have contact with their child after a divorce or separation. Child access can be awarded to one parent, or both parents, depending on the circumstances of the case.
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My former partner/spouse won’t allow me access to my child
It can be very distressing to be denied access to your children after a relationship breaks down. If your former partner denies you contact with your child or children, you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.
Legally, the general assumption after the breakdown of a marriage or relationship where children are involved is that both parents will maintain full and meaningful relationships with any children going forward, unless this puts them at risk of harm. If you are denied access to your child, seeking legal support can help to reinstate contact more quickly, without necessarily needing to go to court to resolve the issue.
Mediation services for child access issues
If you are unable to agree arrangements for contact with your children informally with your former partner, you may benefit from mediation services to help make a fair arrangement, with the best interests of the children at the centre. Mediation involves both parties meeting face to face [ or sometimes in separate rooms], along with an independent mediator who is there to help keep the discussion moving forward and helping to resolve any issues either party may have.
It is sometimes possible and helpful, particularly with older children, for the child or children to attend a mediation session with the mediator on their own to express their views.
At Moore Barlow, our team of expert family law solicitors includes an accredited mediator who can help you with this process.
If your former partner does not agree to attend mediation sessions, you may have to take further legal steps in order to arrange contact with your children.
Deciding on child contact arrangements through a court
If you need to go to court to resolve contact issues, expert child access solicitors like Moore Barlow can help you at every stage of the process.
If there are concerns as to your child’s welfare or a dispute about your child’s wishes and feelings, the court may appoint a CAFCASS Officer (Children and Family Court Advisory & Support Service Officer) to make a report on what is in the best interests of your children. This part of the process may take roughly around 12-18 weeks. The recommendations of this report often have a significant influence on the arrangements that the court will settle on.
If the recommendations of this report cannot be agreed on between you and your former partner, the next step is a trial, where both parents, along with any permitted witnesses and experts, will be required to give evidence before the judge makes a final decision on the arrangements.
Why Moore Barlow Solicitors?
Moore Barlow have a team of highly experienced family law solicitors who can give you all the legal support that you need to help ensure the best possible outcome for any children involved.
We have offices in London, Richmond, Southampton, Guildford, Lymington and Woking, and offer specialist family law support to clients up and down the country. Contact us to find out more.