I am a Father who is separated from my child’s Mother/Father. We are having difficulties over contact. What factors does a Court take into account in deciding contact?
(a) Contact between parent and child is a fundamental element of family life and is almost always in the interests of the child.
(b) Contact between parent and child is to be terminated only in exceptional circumstances, where there are cogent reasons for doing so and when there is no alternative. Contact is to be terminated only if it will be detrimental to the child’s welfare.
(c) There is a positive obligation on the Judge to take steps to maintain or restore contact. The Judge must grapple with all the available alternatives before abandoning hope of achieving some contact. They must be careful not to come to a premature decision, for contact is to be stopped only as a last resort and only once it has become clear that the child will not benefit from continuing the attempts.
(d) The Court should take a medium term and long term view and not accord excessive weight to what appear likely to be short term or transient problems.
(e) The key question is whether the Judge has taken all necessary steps to facilitate contact as can reasonably be demanded in the circumstances of the particular case.
(f) All that said, at the end of the day the welfare of the child is paramount. ‘the child’s interest must have precedence over any other consideration’.
(g) The Court can order direct contact (on whatever terms it thinks best for the child); supervised contact; indirect contact such as by telephone, e-mail, photos; or can make an Order that there should be no contact for a period of time with a review; finally, that there should be no contact at all.
(h) Each case depends on its own facts, so it is essential to get Expert advice.
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