Contact with your child, if it is proving difficult and you are not living with the mother or father, is governed by the Children Act 1989 which reiterates that the child’s welfare is the most important consideration.
The act refers to parental responsibility and these are defined as all the rights, duties and responsibilities associated with parenthood, which includes major decisions relating to the child such as their name, education, religion, medical treatment and where they should live.
The child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility and if the parents were married when the child was born, the father will have it too. If the child was born after 1 December 2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate then again the father will have PR automatically.
If the father does not have PR automatically then he can acquire it through a formal agreement with the child’s mother or by order of the court.
Contact between parent and child
As already stated, the child does have the right to have contact with both parents. That is the child’s right rather than the parent’s and will vary in terms of the amount and timing depending on the child’s age and practical arrangements.
A contact order requires the person the child is living with (we’ll assume the mother) to allow the child to have contact with the person named in the order (usually but not necessarily the father). Orders vary according to the circumstances and generally last until the child reaches the age of 16. It will also depend of course on how far the two parties live from each other.
It is best to avoid court proceedings if at all possible when trying to reach agreement because of the time consumed and the expense of lengthy court proceedings. The contact order will usually provide for the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order.
- The contact order does not necessarily relate to a parent.
- More than one contact order can be made in respect of a child.
- Contact can mean face-to-face contact but also indirect such as by letter, email etc.
- The order may specify no contact, reasonable contact or it might state the details and nature of the contact.
- Contact orders relating to the other parent will lapse if the parents subsequently live together for a period of more than six months.
- Contact orders will also be discharged if a care order is made in respect of the child or if the child is authorised to be placed for adoption.