How do I get access to see my child?
Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, child agreements break down. When that happens, how do you get access to see your child?
First, it’s important to accept that this situation might not get resolved overnight. The system means you need to show you’ve genuinely tried to resolve things agreeably instead of going straight to court.
If that sounds like a journey you’re already on, here’s how to start getting more access to children you have had with a previous partner:
How Do I Get Access To See My Child In The UK?
1) Try To Talk With Them First
No matter how poor relations with your ex-partner are, you need to at least have tried to speak with them if your child arrangements aren’t working. The only exception to this is if you have previously experienced domestic abuse.
Only if you and your former partner can’t agree should you escalate the situation any further.
It is also worth noting that if your child is 16 or older they are legally allowed to make decisions about whether they want to see you for themselves. You may be able to discuss arrangements with them directly, but be sure to do so with care.
2) Suggest Changing Your Original Childcare Agreement
If simple verbal agreements with your former partner to make changes don’t work, you can try to change any Child Arrangement Order you made when you originally separated.
You can do this on the Ministry of Justice website where they have a full set of instructions on how to change a child arrangement.
One approach that often seems to work is bringing in a trusted third party such as a friend or other family member who can help you mediate the disagreement. Alternatively, perhaps they can help with the “handover” of the child so you and your former partner don’t need to see each other.
3) Look For Your Nearest Child Contact Centre
A child contact centre is staffed with professionals who are trained to help bridge the gap between two parents so that their child can have contact with both of them. You can find your nearest child contact centre on the National Association of Contact Centres website.
If you can get your former partner to agree, a child contact centre is all set up to help you:
- Keep your distance – the staff at the centre can “pass” your child on to your ex so that you and your former partner don’t even need to see each other.
- Get supervision – “supervised contact” is a service that contact centres provide where the staff remain in sight and hearing range of your child while the contact session is happening.
- Rely on support – “supported contact” sessions can help you and your former partner meet safely and on even terms.
4) Start A Written Record
If these low-impact steps aren’t working, you may need to start to escalate the situation a little. This might be because you and your former partner don’t speak – or perhaps you simply can’t agree on what is fair or stick to agreements you’ve made.
The next step is to start writing down the times and dates when your partner did not abide by the terms of the agreement you have in place. Perhaps they don’t allow you access at agreed times or always bring your child back late.
You’ll need this information later. It’s good to be able to call on this sort of detail when you start to talk about mediation and especially later court proceedings.
5) Get Mediation
Mediation is an officially accepted (and often mandatory) part of the process of getting access to children you have had with an ex-partner if none of the steps above have worked out.
Essentially, a mediator is a trained professional negotiator. They do great work, helping many former couples make agreements that they can live with even when it seemed impossible going in.
Even if you don’t want to do mediation, the court system basically requires you to at least try. You usually need to go to what’s called a MIAM (a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), a sort of tester session for mediation before the court process can proceed.
Again, there are exceptions if you have experienced domestic abuse.
6) Go To A Court For A Child Arrangements Order
In most cases, going to court to get more access to children should be treated as a last resort. The only exception would be if you have suffered domestic abuse, in which case you can often proceed directly to court.
Do be aware that if you do decide to go to court, you are handing over to the magistrate the final decision as to what happens with your child arrangements. Even if you aren’t happy with their choice, their decision is what you’ll have to live with.
The court’s decision will usually be based on what they think is best for the child, one part of which is generally agreed to be trying to let both parents have contact. If you go to court, this means you will need to:
- Meet with CAFCASS – the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service will meet with you, your former partner, and your children (if they are old enough) to help the court decide what should happen.
- Explain what has gone wrong – you will have to detail what your child arrangements have been like up until now and what has gone wrong with them.
- Pay a fee – getting what’s called a “Child Arrangements Order” detailing who your child lives with or even who they will see costs £232 plus potential court fees, though there is some limited support available.
- Appear in court – you may have to appear in court, though this can be done in a separate room from your former partner if you request it.
- Get legal expertise – if you want the best chance of getting the outcome you want, you will almost certainly want to find a specialist family law solicitor to advise you.
What To Do If Your Ex Won’t Let You See Your Child
If you have already tried some parts of this list or you simply want some legal advice to let you know where you stand, the best idea is to have a commitment-free chat with an expert in family law.
Solicitors Near Me can find you the ideal helpful and supportive family law solicitor for FREE and with zero obligation.