After a separation or divorce many parents want to stop their child from seeing the other parent. Sometimes those feelings are fleeting as a reaction to a parent turning up late for contact or because of an argument. In other families, one parent may believe that it in their child’s best interests to not have contact with the other parent. In this blog children law expert, Louise Halford, looks at whether a parent can stop a child from seeing the other parent after parental separation or divorce.
Stopping contact between child and parent
If you are thinking about stopping contact between your child and their other parent then it is best to take legal advice before stopping contact.
If there is an existing child arrangement order in place you may be in breach of the court order if you stop contact without first applying to court to vary the child arrangement order to stop the contact.
If there is no child arrangement order in force it is still best to get expert legal advice on your options. That is because if you stop contact your ex-partner may apply to court for a child arrangement order and, depending on the current level of contact and the reasons why you want to stop contact, they may even end up with more contact with your child.
Should you stop contact between a child and the other parent?
There are some scenarios when it is best for the child to stop contact. For example, if you fear child abduction and your child being taken out of the UK without your agreement or you are worried that the other parent is not able to care for the children during contact and doesn’t have the insight into their mental health issues or the extended family support to make contact safe for your child.
However, there are other scenarios where it isn’t necessarily in your child’s best interests to stop contact even though the cessation of contact would make life a lot easier for you as you would not have to be in contact with your ex-partner over the contact arrangements.
There are many situations where one parent often wants to stop a child having contact with the other parent, such as:
- The other parent has not paid child support or spousal maintenance.
- The other parent has met a new partner and you feel angry or hurt about it.
- The other parent gives you a lot of hassle and grief over the contact arrangements and you feel they are trying to control you through the communication that they have with you over childcare.
- You are worried that your ex-partner will be violent towards you at either collection or drop off time.
- The other parent is always late collecting the child or returning the child.
- The child does not do any homework whilst with the other parent and always returns tired after a contact weekend meaning that the child finds it hard to settle back into their routine and concentrate on their school work.
- The other parent won’t follow the same parenting routine as you so you are seen as the disciplinarian and no fun.
- The child comes back from contact saying things about you that they have heard from the other parent.
- The child says they don’t want to see the other parent because contact is boring and they want to see their friends.
- The child doesn’t like the other parent’s new partner or their children.
All of the above are very valid concerns that need legal advice and discussion with an expert children law solicitor but should not necessarily result in all contact stopping between your child and the other parent.
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What happens if I stop contact between my child and the other parent?
If you stop contact between your child and the other parent then the other parent could:
- Apply to court to enforce an existing child arrangement order.
- Apply to court for a child arrangement order.
- Still turn up to see the child, for example, collecting the child from school.
- Not have contact and walk away – the child may not want this and therefore the child may be angry and hurt with you. In addition, the child may think of their other parent in an idealised fashion and as they are no longer having contact with the other parent the child forgets that the other parent was late in collecting them or did nothing with them during the contact visit other than watch television.
It can help to discuss the likely outcome of an application for a child arrangement order by the other parent or an application by you for a children order, such as a prohibited steps order. That’s because it is best to understand the approach the family court will take to stopping contact and how they will weigh up what the judge thinks is in your child’s best interests.
A children law solicitor can also discuss alternate options, such as:
- Family mediation to help you explain to your ex-partner your concerns about contact.
- Protective orders, such as domestic violence injunction orders if your ex-partner is harassing you, or you fear child abduction.
- Round table meeting with children law solicitors to discuss your concerns and reach a resolution. For example, agreeing a parenting plan with consistent parenting routines for the child or agreeing to supervised contact whilst your ex-partner is experiencing a period of mental ill-health.
- Family therapy that can involve an older child so they can explain how they feel about contact.
Therefore, whilst it is tempting to stop contact between your child and their other parent it is normally best to take some time to reflect and to consider the consequences of the decision.
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