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What can I do if my ex-partner is stopping me from seeing my child?

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Many parents experience problems securing contact with their children following the breakdown of a relationship.  Are you one of them?  If so, this article may help.

In accordance with the Children Act 1989, as long as it is safe, children are entitled to be able to have and maintain a relationship with both of their parents and this is considered to be in their best interests.

If you have parental responsibility for your child, then you are entitled to have a say in important matters regarding your child, such as which religion they practice, what school they attend, and also in relation to medical treatments. Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their child, whereas fathers only have automatic parental responsibility where they were married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, or if they are named on the child’s birth certificate and the child was born after December 2003.

Frequently, following the breakdown of relationships it can be hard to sort out arrangements regarding children, including which parent they live with and any time spent with the non-resident parent.  This can often lead to arguments between parents, which can appear difficult to resolve. If you are experiencing difficulties in relation to being able to see your child following a relationship breakdown, then the Family Department at Johnson Astills can help you.

We can provide initial advice to you and, if appropriate, refer you to mediation or assist you in commencing Court Proceedings in the event that mediation is inappropriate or unsuccessful.

Mediation can be a much quicker, cheaper and less stressful way of coming to an agreement between  parents, in the event of a dispute following the breakdown of a relationship.   However, where there has been abuse or violence within the relationship, you do not know the whereabouts of your child or you cannot agree on matters, mediation would not be appropriate and you will need to make an application to the Court.

Unless mediation is considered inappropriate in your circumstances, it is a compulsory requirement to attend mediation before making an application to Court to be able to see your child.  Contact a member of the Family Team at Johnson Astills today for further advice in this regard.

You can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order, to decide whether and how often you can have contact with your child. The Court will consider the views of both parents, but will, most importantly, consider what arrangements they believe to be in the best interests of your child.

If you wish for your child to live with you, you can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine where your child should live and if/when  your child should have contact with their other parent.

Since lockdown, there has been a surge of enquiries to the Family Team at Johnson Astills from parents being denied contact with their children by the parent the children live with, as they have been incorrectly saying that this is contrary to the Covid-19 Restrictions.

The President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, the Right Honourable Sir Andrew McFarlane, confirmed earlier this year that with regard to Covid-19 restrictions, parents/carers are permitted to move children between households in order for them to have contact with the parent that they do not live with.

You will not automatically be entitled to Legal Aid funding to apply to the Court in relation to your child. Eligibility will depend on your financial circumstances and whether there has been domestic abuse in the relationship, or whether your child is considered to be at risk of harm from the other parent; in which case evidence of domestic abuse/harm to your child will need to be provided to the Legal Aid Agency. Further information as to whether you may be eligible for Legal Aid can be accessed here:-  https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/domestic-abuse-or-violence.  Alternatively, please contact Johnson Astills and ask to speak with a member of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Department (DVAD), who will be able to assess your eligibility for Legal Aid over the phone.

The  Family Team at  Johnson Astills can assist you with making applications to the Court with the assistance of Legal Aid, or on a privately paying basis.

Please contact the Family Team online or by phone on 0116 255 4855 for further information as to how we can best assist you.