In an ideal world, both of a child’s parents would be equally involved in caring for them.
However, the reality is that everyone’s circumstances are different, and the best child contact arrangements for one separated family may look completely different to that of the next.
One thing that all parties should agree on though, is that the most important thing to consider when making arrangements for child access is the child’s welfare and best interests.
Both parents should have access to their children unless there is a very valid reason for them not to.
In this article, we will look at what rights each parent has to a relationship with their child and what you can do if you are being denied access.
If you require legal advice regarding child contact arrangements, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of solicitors here at Freeman Jones Solicitors in Chester by calling us on 01244 506 444.
What is reasonable access to a child?
The law states that parents should be given ‘reasonable access’ to their children, a term that is vague at best.
The truth of the matter though is that there is no definitive answer to the question, ‘how much should a parent see their children?’ There is no convenient one-size-fits-all, every individual is different, every relationship is different, and everyone’s circumstances are different.
What is clear though is that, as stated in the Children Act 1989, any decision made about a child should be made with ‘paramount consideration’ to their welfare.
It is usually in a child’s best interests to have contact with both of their parents. If this is the case, then both parents should discuss what they would like to happen and what is practically possible, and the correct level of contact should then be carefully assessed by the primary caregiver.
For some people, ‘reasonable access’ may be seeing their child every day, for others, it could be once a month or even less frequently.
On what grounds can a mother stop access?
Just because a father has previously had access to his children, it doesn’t mean that he always will.
However, a mother cannot stop a father from seeing his child unless she has a valid reason to do so.
If the mother feels that it is not in the child’s best interests to see their father because of safety or welfare reasons, then a court order may be made to prevent the father from having access to his children.
Some valid reasons for preventing a father from having contact with his children include:
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Criminal activity
- Domestic abuse
- Other activities or behaviours that put the child’s welfare at risk
A father should not be denied access to a child for any reason that is not related to the child’s welfare. Wrong reasons for preventing access include separation or divorce, the father not paying child support, or the mother’s own personal dislike for the father or his new life.
Can a mother deny a father access?
A mother should not deny a father access to his children unless she believes their safety or welfare is at risk by doing so.
The courts actively encourage both parents to be involved in the upbringing of their children, so unless there is a valid reason for the father to be prevented from seeing his children, he will not be denied access by the courts.
Can a father deny a mother access?
The law always puts the child’s welfare and best interests first when considering who has access to the child.
The court believes that it is usually in the child’s best interests to be involved with both parents and in an ideal world, both parents would have equal responsibility and access to the child. As such, the court treats both parents equally and does not automatically favour the mother over the father.
When it comes to a father denying a mother access to her children, the same rules apply as they would if it were the other way around. A father cannot deny a mother access to her children unless he believes the child’s safety or welfare is at risk by having contact with the mother.
What to do if your ex-partner denies child access
Being denied access to your children can be extremely distressing, especially if you are in the dark as to why you are being denied access or feel that the reasons are unjust.
However, unless you are behaving in a way that could be detrimental to your child’s welfare, then you should not be denied access and a mediator or the courts will be able to help you and your ex-partner to come to an agreement over access.
Being denied access to a parent or witnessing parents arguing over access can be very upsetting for children and it’s in their best interest to come to an agreement as amicably as possible.
If you cannot sit down with your ex-partner and agree on a contact schedule amicably then you should seek help from a solicitor.
At this point, your solicitor will write a letter to your ex-partner on your behalf, requesting access to your children. If your ex-partner does not agree at this point, then your solicitor will refer you both to a local mediator to try to help you to reach an agreement.
If an agreement still cannot be reached or your ex-partner does not show up to the meeting with the mediator, then you will need to apply to the court for a Contact Order that sets out the arrangements for you to see your children.
Court proceedings can be lengthy, stressful, and expensive, so it is in everyone’s best interests to try to come to an amicable agreement outside of court.
For further help or advice with child Contact Orders, give our team of child custody solicitors here at Freeman Jones Solicitors a call on 01244 506 444.
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