One major issue affecting a number of armed forces personnel is that of child contact following the breakdown of a relationship. Very often following separation the former spouse can make it difficult for a parent to continue a relationship with a child.
One difficulty is that of timing. When serving parents are deployed very often they can be away from home for a number of months. As such they are reliant on the other parent to facilitate indirect contact either by telephone or by skype to ensure that relationships are maintained.
However, what can be done when the parent whom the child lives denies contact?
The starting point in any case is that a child has a right to a meaningful relationship with both of its parents, unless there is a risk of harm to a child. Risk factors include drugs and alcohol abuse, police involvement or untreated mental health issues. Therefore, in the absence of any such concerns contact should be taking place. If contact is not then taking place, the Courts can take a very dim view where a relationship between a parent and a child has been restricted or denied.
In cases where mental health is an issue, this does not put a bar on contact, provided that the parent is compliant with whatever treatment they are undertaking whether it be medication, counselling or both.
Wherever possible it is best to resolve these matters without the need to argue the matter in court.
Parents can choose to enter into Parenting Agreements, which set out what time each parent will spend with the child. When set days are not possible, these agreements can build in the flexibility to ensure a minimum number of days per month or year are spent with the child. Such an agreement be made legally binding if the parents apply to the Court to ratify the Order.
Another method to resolve matters can be via mediation. Distance need not be a barrier. A lot of mediators are now starting to offer services via skype. Mediation empowers parents with the assistance of an impartial lawyer to reach an agreement beneficial to the child. Again any agreement reached here can either remain as an agreement or can become legally enforceable should both parties consent and make the necessary application to Court.
A Court application is the last resort and ultimately it will then involve either a judge or a bench of magistrates making a decision which they feel is in the child’s best interests.
It is important to know that without good reason the law will always encourage positive and meaningful relationships between parents and their children.
If you need advice and assistance please contact one of our offices listed below to arrange an appointment.
Aintree – 0151 526 9321
Formby – 01704872156
Heswall – 0151 342 6447
Huyton – 0151 489 6161
Kirkby – 0151 548 7370
Maghull – 0151 526 7131
West Kirby – 0151 625 9254
Woolton 0151 421 2400
Darren White is a family solicitor and a member of Resolution