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When an ex-partner restricts access to your children, it can be a distressing and challenging situation for all those involved. Fortunately, there are legal and practical steps you can take to address this issue and work towards re-establishing contact with your children. Here’s a guide to help you navigate this process:

Understand Your Legal Rights

In England & Wales, it is viewed as a child’s right to have a relationship with both their parents (not the other way round).  The courts prioritize the child’s welfare and unless there are valid concerns for the child’s safety or well-being, preventing a child from having contact with a parent is generally not in their best interests.

Initial Steps to Take

  1. Communication

Start by trying to communicate with your ex-partner as soon as possible to understand their reasons for restricting access. Keep the conversation respectful and focused on the children’s best interests. Avoid confrontational language and try to work towards a compromise.  Suggest using a Parenting App to discuss issues related to the children – this can be a very useful tool for separated parents.

  1. Mediation

If direct communication is unproductive, consider mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps you and your ex-partner reach an agreement regarding the children. Mediation can be less stressful and more cost-effective than going to court. The mediator can help facilitate a constructive dialogue and create a co-parenting plan that works for both parties.  Help is available with the cost of mediation.

Legal Intervention

If mediation fails or your ex-partner refuses to participate, you may need to seek legal intervention. The legal system in England & Wales provides several avenues to ensure you can maintain a relationship with your children.

  1. Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

Before you can apply to court, you usually need to attend a MIAM. This meeting assesses whether mediation is suitable for your situation. Exceptions include cases involving domestic abuse or urgency.

  1. Applying for a Child Arrangements Order

If mediation is not successful or appropriate, you can apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order. This order specifies where your children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. The process involves several steps:

– Making an Application: Complete and submit Form C100 online or to your local family court.  There is a cost involved, but you can apply to the Court for help with fees in some circumstances.

– First Court Hearing: The court will schedule a hearing to understand both parents’ perspectives. You may be asked to provide evidence supporting your application.

– CAFCASS Involvement: The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) may be involved. They will conduct welfare checks, speak to both you and your ex-partner and report their findings to the court.

– Further hearings: if necessary, there may be further hearings if you and your ex-partner cannot agree a way forward or if CAFCASS advise the Court that there needs to be further assessment of the situation.

Overall, the court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the children. They will consider factors such as the children’s wishes (depending on their age and maturity), the impact of changes in their circumstances, and the ability of each parent to meet their needs.

Ensuring Compliance

If a Child Arrangements Order is granted and your ex-partner continues to deny access, you can take further legal action to enforce the Order. This might involve:

  1. Enforcement Orders

If your ex-partner breaches the Child Arrangements Order, you can apply for an Enforcement Order via a C79 form online. The court can impose various penalties, including fines, community service, or even a change in residence in the most serious circumstances.

  1. Legal Advice

Consulting a family law solicitor is crucial throughout this process. A solicitor can provide guidance on your rights, help prepare your case, and represent you in court if necessary.

 Supporting Your Children

Throughout this process, prioritize your children’s emotional well-being. Avoid involving them in conflicts or speaking negatively about the other parent in their presence. Demonstrate your love and commitment to them by maintaining consistent communication and being present in their lives whenever possible, this can be via direct contact, video/telephone calls, letters/gifts and other means.

Avoid delay – don’t let a period of no contact go on for too long without attempting to resolve the situation with your ex-partner directly, through mediation or via Court.


Post Author: Liz Edmunds

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