How can I see my child without going to court?
Except in cases of domestic abuse, going to court should always be your last port of call if you want to change your child arrangements. So how can you see your child without going to court?
Luckily, there is a set series of steps that you can follow. These steps should slowly escalate, giving you plenty of things to try before you finally conclude that court is the only option left to you.
Here is what you need to know about changing your child custody agreement without court being involved:
How Can I See My Child Without Going To Court? (The Amicable Options)
If you are still on speaking terms with your ex-partner, there are a couple of usually reasonably amicable options open to you:
1) Make A New Verbal (Or Ideally Written) Agreement
The best, easiest, and cheapest option will be if you can talk things out with your ex-partner and come to some kind of arrangement you are both reasonably happy with.
This might mean some level of compromise on both of your parts. However, this kind of negotiation is known for delivering good results for many families.
Though you can make a simple verbal agreement, the best approach is to write things down (either on paper or perhaps on a shared digital calendar if you have one) so that no one “misremembers” what you agreed.
The sorts of things you might want to note down are:
- Residence – where will your child reside and on what days?
- Scheduling and responsibility – how much time and on what days, dates, and times will your child spend with each of you? Who will pick them up or drop them off and where?
- Direct or indirect contact – how will child contact happen? Will it be in person? At a specific place or residence? Or perhaps online or over the phone?
- Special occasions – what about birthdays or holidays? What will the arrangements be then?
- Emergencies and unusual circumstances – what will be your agreed routine if something comes up that disrupts your agreement?
2) Consider a more formal agreement
Sometimes, a casual agreement feels not substantial enough. In these cases, you might want to try a more formal agreement. There are a few accepted ways of doing this:
- Parenting Plans – are a kind of non-legal document that essentially formalises the kind of agreement discussed above. Visit the CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) website for a guide to parenting plans. These can work but they are not legally enforceable.
- Consent Orders – are a legally-binding version of the above. You will need a specialist family law solicitor to create one of these and it needs to be sent to the courts for approval.
How To Change Your Child Arrangements (If You Can’t Agree)
If you have already tried the more amicable options open to you – or you simply believe they definitely won’t work in your case – there are still other possibilities that can help your child see more of you without going to court:
1) Try A Child Contact Centre
Child contact centres are facilities set up to be neutral ground for separated parents and their children to meet.
You do not even have to meet your ex if you don’t want to. The staff at child contact centres are trained to supervise any meeting between your child and you or your former partner if you think that would be suitable. But they can also manage “handovers” of children between you so you don’t need to meet.
Check out the National Association of Contact Centres (NACC) website if you think this might work for you.
2) Explore The Separated Parents Information Programme
The Separated Parents Information Programme is another CAFCASS initiative. It’s a four-hour online program that you and your former partner complete separately.
The idea is to show you ways you can help support your child’s needs even if you disagree in many other areas. It can also help you communicate better, both between yourselves and with your child.
The courts may instruct you to complete this program if you get that far. But you can opt to try it yourself first.
3) Try Mediation
Mediators are professionals trained to provide a neutral, unbiased ear and support for parents struggling to agree on child arrangements.
Mediation has the major advantage that you retain control. If you go to court, the magistrate will be making the decision as to what happens with your child arrangements. Mediation is also much cheaper than an entire court case.
If you do go to court later, the courts will require you to at least go to a first mediation assessment session before your case can proceed (except in cases of domestic abuse). This means it can be worth at least trying it first as it is known to deliver good results in many cases.
Get Expert Family Law Advice Before You Go To Court
Of course, if you do need to go to court, you need just the right kind of advice and support.