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What is reasonable contact with a child in care?

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Under Section 34(1) of the Children Act 1989, where a child is in the care of a Local Authority, the Local Authority must allow ‘reasonable contact’ between a child in its care and their parents, guardian and others with parental responsibility. 

Under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989 parents, guardians and others with parental responsibility can apply to the Court for a Contact Order. A Contact Order is an order of the Court which sets out what contact should take place and when, it requires the Local Authority to make the child available for contact with a person named in the order.

Applications for contact with a child in care can only be made where a child is subject to either an Interim Care Order or Final Care Order. The application may not be made at the same time that the Care Order is made and can be used as a remedy if there is a dispute between a family member and the Local Authority.

Courts start with the presumption that contact between parents and a child should continue after a child has been removed from their parents’ care. This is because contact between a child and their family is considered as beneficial under Schedule 2, Paragraph 15 of the Children Act 1989.

The Courts will balance the advantages and disadvantages of contact taking place and will look at the impact of contact in the short and long-term for the child. Contact can be direct, indirect, supervised or unsupervised. 

What is deemed as ‘reasonable contact’ is different in each case. However if the Local Authority and the parents do not agree contact, it has been interpreted as what is ‘objectively reasonable’.

The Local Authority can also refuse contact between a child and their family members. This can be done without a Court Order for up to seven days. The Local Authority must be satisfied that it is necessary to refuse contact and the refusal is decided on a matter of urgency. After this time the Local Authority must make an application to the Court for permission to refuse contact under Section 34(4). The Court will not make a decision to refuse contact between a parent and their child lightly and in the event that the parent or family member does not agree the Court will hear evidence from the Local Authority and family members before making a decision.

Legal Aid is sometimes available for applications for contact with a child in care and for applications by the Local Authority for permission to refuse contact.

It is important for children to maintain familiar relationships and continue to have contact where possible. Here at Emery Johnson Astills we are experts in handling child contact related matters.

If you would like to speak to one of our specialist solicitors or arrange a fixed fee appointment to discuss options please do not hesitate to contact Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855.