One of the most common questions we are asked is; ‘can my ex stop me from seeing my children?’ In short, your ex cannot legally stop you from having access to your children, unless a court has decided it will be of detriment to your child’s welfare. However, it is important to understand the law regarding child access before you decide what to do.
Do I have the right to see my child?
Technically speaking, legal access to children isn’t a right. Parental Responsibility gives you legal rights and responsibilities regarding where your children live, where they go to school and what medical treatment they receive. However, there is no automatic right to have contact with your children.
The law is concerned entirely about your child’s welfare and for that reason will only grant access if it will improve your child’s quality of life. However, unless there are any safeguarding concerns, the court encourages relationships between the child and both parents. Therefore, in most situations you will be granted some kind of contact, unless it can be proven you will pose a risk to, or harm, your child.
When can the court stop access?
Access to your children can be prevented by a court order if there are safety concerns including:
- Drug/alcohol abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Criminal activity
- Any other inappropriate behaviour that puts your child at risk.
You ex can oppose any access application you make by providing evidence that you are engaging in any of the above.
If the court agrees I should have access, how is it arranged?
The best way to arrange access to see your child is to agree it with your ex. However, if you have had to go to court to get access this is unlikely to happen.
In court your access will be outlined in a ‘Child Arrangement Order’. This is a legal document that will specify instructions regarding how contact will work. This can be explicit or more general, but will include how often you can see your child and where. It can also include other details including:
- Encouraging the relationship between your ex and your child
- An agreement to not speak badly of each other
- Specific details, such as where handover will take place and who will do it.
Child Arrangement Orders are tailored for each situation. No two are the same.
What can I do if I am denied access?
This will depend on whether you have an informal agreement/no agreement or a Child Arrangement Order/court order.
Informal agreement/no agreement
- Firstly, try to discuss the problem with your ex and try to resolve it between yourselves
- If this doesn’t work, consult a solicitor who can send a legal letter setting out your proposals
- Then, try referring the issue to a local family mediator or alternative dispute resolution
- Finally, apply to court for a Child Arrangement Order
Child Arrangement Order/court order
- Firstly, try to discuss the problem with your ex without involving the court
- Then, write to your partner via your solicitors setting out proposals for a resolution
- Finally, apply to the court for your order to be enforced. This should be a last resort.
We understand it can be extremely stressful if your ex is denying you access to your children. However, it is always better to try and resolve the issue outside of court, as it could make the situation even more hostile. We will always work with you to try and come to a resolution outside of court, but we can provide robust representation should this not happen.
If you are being denied access to your children or have any questions about child custody, please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.