by Javaid Iqbal, Family Law Consultant, Shire Solicitors 01274 727373
From time to time everyone has domestic problems and unfortunately these may lead to separation or divorce.
The Courts first position is that it does not like to interfere in the lives of parents and children. The Courts primary position is to safeguard the welfare of the child. That is paramount. The legal position in regards to contact is that every child has the right to have contact with their parent providing it is safe to do so.
The Children Act 1989 says that the child’s safeguarding and welfare is the most important consideration. The term “custody” no longer exists. It is now “who the child shall live with” and “who the child shall spend time with.”
If the parents of a child separate as a result of a breakdown in their relationship, then the question of where the child will live is usually the source of great tension and stress between the parents.
Undoubtedly the best way to decide these and any other pertinent issues regarding the child is by agreement between both parties. This would be the least stressful way and the most beneficial to the child or children concerned.
Unfortunately separating parents may use this as a means of punishing the other party. This is often upsetting for both parents and obviously the children and my advice for any parents in this position is to think carefully about their actions. They may not realise it at the time but if they are being affected by protracted legal proceedings, then this stress will be picked up by the children and cause greater tension in the long run.
If either parent has genuine concerns then they are right in seeking the intervention of the courts to decide on any issues that may cause them concern.
After the initial application your case will be assigned a Cafcass Officer. Cafcass are an independent body who have the safeguarding and welfare of the child as their main concern.
Cafcass will interview each parent individually with regards to any concerns that they have with regard to the other parent or the welfare of the child.
After these initial interviews Cafcass shall file a Safeguarding Letter with the court making certain recommendations to the Court. If allegations are made by either party then these will be investigated by the Court before any contact can commence.
There are several types of contact Orders that the Court can make. They can vary from Indirect Contact, where a parent can send gifts and cards to the child, to a “live with” Order which states who the child shall live on a permanent basis.
Each case is determined on its own merits and own welfare concerns. No two children are the same and no two contact cases are the same.