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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Parents: contact with children after divorce or separation

In most cases it’s best for children to continue and develop their relationships with their parents and other relatives after a relationship breaks down. Find out what you will need to think about to get an agreement that’s good for you and your children.

Types of parental contact

‘Contact’ means the time a child spends or how they keep in touch with the parent they don’t live with full-time. This used to be called ‘access’.

There are three types of contact – direct contact, indirect contact and supervised contact.

Direct contact

This is the time your child spends with the parent they don’t live with. It may be on visits, days out or overnight stays with them, including holidays.

Indirect contact

This includes keeping in touch by phone calls, text messages, letters or email.

Supervised contact

This is when your child sees the parent they don’t live with when another adult is also there. The other person could be a relative or friend.

Reasonable contact time

There are no hard and fast rules about the length of time a child should spend with each parent when families have split up. But children have a right to keep in contact with their parents.

Contact time that is ‘reasonable’ might mean that your child:

  • takes turns spending weekends with each parent
  • visits the parent they don’t live with in between weekend visits
  • stays with the parent they don’t live with during part of school holidays

You should also think about what will happen on important dates such as birthdays and religious festivals, and who will pick up your child after school.

Whatever you agree should be worked out so that the child feels comfortable and arrangements fit in with their schooling and social activities.

It’s important that both you and your former partner try to focus on what’s going to be best for your children. It’s a very good idea to work out and agree a schedule between you. Once you’ve worked it out, you can keep a calendar, so all of you – including your children – can see what will happen and when.

Help with agreeing the amount of contact

If you’re finding it difficult to speak to your former partner or you can’t agree contact arrangements, you could get help from a family mediator.

If you can’t reach an agreement

If you really can’t reach an agreement with your former partner, you can think about getting the court to decide. This really should be your last resort as getting a court to decide about contact with children can be disruptive to the child.

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