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Family - Child contact FAQ

This article appeared in the Mercury newspaper on 21st April 2010

Solicitor Emily Abbey of Norrie Waite & Slater answers questions on child contact.

How are contact arrangements with children decided after a separation?

The law in relation to children is based on what is in their best interests. The law generally accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents, provided the children child custodyare safe and are not at risk.
A specialist family solicitor can help you to work out the most suitable arrangements for child contact.

It is usually in the childís best interests if arrangements can be worked out between the parents. The law prefers voluntary agreements between parents, rather than court imposed settlements, as voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long run. If you are not able to reach a compromise then the Courts can impose a contact order, specifying exactly what contact the non-resident parent will have.† If required, the Courts may order a Children and Family Court Reporter to look into the case, their role being to investigate the situation and complete a report based on what is in the childís best interests.†

My childís mother is threatening to stop me seeing my child, what can I do?

Many couples have informal agreements about when the non-resident parent can have contact with the child. In some cases one parent will try and use child contact as a bargaining chip, for example in cases of non payment of maintenance. These are two separate issues and contact is not legally related to maintenance payments.

If contact has been stopped, or you are threatened with this, you should contact a family solicitor for advice on the best course of action. In these circumstances it may be necessary to formalise the contact arrangement by obtaining a contact order through the courts.

I need a solicitor, but canít afford to pay. Can I get legal aid?

Legal aid is available to help with this type of family problem. If you are under a certain level of income or receive benefits you may be entitled to legal aid.

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