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Do I have a right to see my children?

May 10, 2018

Every separation presents challenges for those directly and indirectly involved. But, without question, the most difficult logistical and emotional issues are around the children of the relationship.

Most parents accept that divorce is about compromise and pragmatism. And the reality is that arrangements for their children – where they’ll live and how much contact will be had with each parent and with the wider circle of relatives – are best made by families themselves.

Of course this isn’t always possible. But in our experience of advising parents in a wide range of circumstances, agreement can be reached on the big issues; sometimes with the help of an independent mediator. Whichever way the resolution happens, the key point is that it’s far better for all concerned that parents agree each other’s rights and responsibilities in respect of their children, rather than asking a court to do that. It can make things easier in the long run.

The underlying premise – and the starting point when it comes to any discussions about the children of the relationship - is that the children’s welfare must be the paramount concern. In fact, as family law specialists, we talk less about each parent’s right to see their child, and more about each child’s right to have their best interests served. In the vast majority of cases, it is in a child’s best interests to have contact with both parents. And so, if you are a mother or a father who is being denied contact with your children, your right is to apply to the court for an order that enables you to spend time with them.

So the idea of a right to contact can be a little misleading. A parent who has separated from the other does not have an automatic right to spend every other weekend with their child, for example. However, that right can be acquired if the court decides that it would be in the child’s best interests for that contact to happen.

This comes as a surprise to some clients, particularly those that have parental responsibility and assume that the law entitles them to share contact. It doesn’t. But what it does do is to ensure that your children’s welfare is promoted. And, ultimately, whether the arrangements for contact are agreed between parents or whether they are put in place by a family judge, it is the children’s feelings, their welfare, their future that must be prioritised.

For further advice please contact either Sandra Machin or Jennifer Peebles at family@bsandi.co.uk


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