Disputes over contact make up the majority of cases brought before the family court. If your reading this post then there’s a chance that your case is a clash over contact too. The number of cases that result in an order of no contact for the non-resident parent is small. So small that it’s almost unheard of. For a mother representing herself in a contact case, the biggest challenge will be to separate her own feelings from that of her child.
Every family is different. Yet, everyone’s emotions run high during and after the breakdown of a relationship. Regardless of the reason for the break-up, we are all in that same boat with emotions. Things get said out of spite and feelings get hurt. Actions create reactions from the other person and all too quickly things spiral out of control. The truth is, sometimes it can be hard agreeing and maintaining a contact arrangement. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the drama that we lose sight of what matters. What’s important is that your child maintains a loving relationship with both parents.
For your contact case to be strong you need to show that you’re acting solely in the best interests of your child. Resolution is the order of the day in family court. So, in order to better understand your contact case it could be helpful to consider the 5 things that contact is not:
1. Contact is NOT a parent’s right.
There is no entitlement to 50% of a child’s time and it would be naive for a non-resident parent to presume so. For a contact arrangement to work it has to be practical. School routines, after-school clubs, activities and social commitments all have to be taken into account. Things get difficult when a mother feels pressured into unrealistic demands for contact because her ex feels it is right and fair. Without a solicitor a mother could feel at a disadvantage. Luckily, any orders made in court are flexible and can be altered to suit the personal needs of each family.
2. Contact is NOT a weapon.
Punishing the ex by restricting or removing contact will never be accepted by the court. Whether it’s you punishing him or whether it’s him punishing you, contact is not a weapon. It is difficult to be rational when emotions are in control. Pull back the reigns. For success in court, a litigant in heels has no choice but to keep a level head. How you feel about the father of your child is of no relevance to their right to a relationship with him.
3. Contact is NOT linked to money.
Whether your ex pays maintenance or not, your child has a right to contact. By law, your ex has a financial obligation to his child. His failure or inconsistency in paying is irrelevant to your case. Don’t give your ex the opportunity to show the court that money is linked to how much contact he is given. With the exception of divorce proceedings, disputes over maintenance are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service and not family court. If you do have a dispute over the financial arrangements for your child, you should seek advice from Child Maintenance Service.
More information: http://www.childmaintenanceservice.direct.gov.uk
4. Contact is NOT a game.
Life is unpredictable: kids get ill, mums get ill, dads get ill, holidays sometimes happen. Undoubtedly, at some point contact arrangements will need to be changed or cancelled. In the eyes of the family court, these times are the exceptions. Whether their parents are in a relationship or not, kids thrive on routine and consistency. Keeping to a regular contact arrangement is important for your child. Exceptions will happen but, from your side of the case, show the court that they are not a regular occurrence.
5. No contact is NOT an option.
Even if it’s child safety that concerns you, there is the option of fully supervised contact (depending on the seriousness). The circumstances would have to be extremely unique for the court to issue an order of no contact. With so many ways to facilitate a contact arrangement, it would be difficult for the courts to agree that no contact be in the best interest of the child. There will be exceptions, of course. If you really feel that contact is not in your child’s best interest and you can back up your argument with proof, fight your case! In all other cases, I think it’s best to enter court knowing that there will be some form of contact. Put yourself in a position to negotiate a frequency and duration that would suit family life and commitments best.
Remember, all orders can be personalized to suit the specific needs of your individual family. For more on contact, check out: Contact—Whose right is it anyway?
If it’s your emotions that you are struggling to take control of, read: Emotion & Reason; 5 Steps to Creating a Balanced Argument for help on how to keep a level head.
Court without a solicitor is hard but it’s not impossible. Amazing things happen when women support each other. Sharing information is one way to support another mother in court without a solicitor. Leave a comment and share your thoughts on what makes a contact agreement work. #mothers4justice2
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