Contact with family members when parents disagree

If your parents have separated, they will need to agree on what happens to you. They will need to decide where you will live and how much time with you spend with each of your parents. Spending time with your parents is called ‘contact’. It is your right to have contact with both your parents so long as this is safe and in your best interests.

If you are mainly living with one parent, that parent should usually make arrangements for you to have contact with your other parent. Most of the time, the law will encourage you to have a relationship with both of your parents.

If your parents can’t agree on the arrangements for contact, either parent can apply to the Family Court for a court order. A judge will then decide on the arrangements for contact including where, when and how. The court, by law, must make a decision about contact which is in your best interests.

You also have the right to contact with your wider family, e.g. aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings.

What If I want more contact than I am having?

You should speak to the parent you live with and tell them what contact you would like. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then you can speak to another adult that you trust for example at school or in your wider family. Contact is your right and so your wishes will be taken seriously.

If you are not able to work things out with the parent that you mainly live with, then it is possible for you to apply to court to ask the court to decide the contact arrangements. For further information regarding this contact us using our contact form here.

What if I do not want to have contact with someone?

If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to the parent you live with and explain that you do not want contact and why.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then you can speak to another adult that you trust for example at school or in your wider family.

What if there is a court order for contact with someone and I do not want to go?

You should speak to the parent you live with or an adult that you trust about this. The parent that you live with must, by law, follow the court order and encourage you to have contact that is in the court order. If this is no longer in your best interests, it may be necessary for one of your parents to go back to court to change what is in the order.

Will I have to go to court?

If your parents go to court, you will not normally have to go to the court or speak in court. However, an organisation named CAFCASS may be there to help them work out what’s best for you. They may ask you for a chat so they can find out what you want.

How old do I have to be for what I want to be heard in the Family court?

It depends on your maturity and understanding. Normally what you want will be considered if you are aged 11 or above, however children younger than this can be involved if the court agrees.

When will a court order for contact end?

A court order for contact will normally finish when you reach the age of 16. At 16 you can decide for yourself who you want to have contact with and when this will be.

In some situations, an order for contact will last until you are 18, if for example you have a disability, but this will be written in the order itself.