Due to working patterns today it is still the case in the majority of families that when a child is born it is the mother who ceases employment to raise the child/children of the family. As a result of this if the relationship unfortunately breaks down it is usually the mother who the children reside with and the father who receives contact. It is very common that if the breakdown is particularly hostile the children will be used as a weapon and contact will decrease or cease with the absent parent. Some fathers continue to persist with contact others for various reasons will not. What a lot of fathers do not realise is that since the introduction of the European Court Of Human Rights a father now has the right to family life which means a right to see their children. We have recently seen a huge number of fathers who were not aware that they have a legal right to see their children despite what the mothers may say.
A considerable number of independent reports have concluded that if a child does not have contact or a relationship with their father this will have a detrimental effect on the child regardless of how good the relationship of the child is with its mother. This conclusion is of equal application to both sons and daughters. Studies have illustrated that children in families where the father is absent have achieved lower results in academic achievement than families where the father has maintained contact.
The length of contact a father should receive depends on the age of the child. If both parents are amicable the level of contact can be agreed between the parties. If this is not possible then any father can issue a Defined Contact Order with the Court and have a District Judge decide what contact is appropriate. Before any Court hearing a mediation appointment will take place and hopefully the disagreements can be resolved. If not, in the majority of cases the District Judge will list the case for a final hearing and statements will be filled by each party. Generally speaking the type and length of contact awarded depends on the age of the child. For young children little and often contact is favoured to reinforce the bond between parent and child. Staying contact is not usually awarded with young children. Provided contact has been maintained and been successful the contact should progress and increase as the child becomes older. Eventually contact should reach a level where alternate weekend contact is occurring commencing on Friday through to Sunday. If the parties still live reasonably close it is often possible to also have week day contact after school. It must be remembered that the above outline for contact is the Courts approach however this does not need to be followed if the parties can agree alternate arrangements. With all contact cases it is always to the parties advantage to agree contact as it can then remain flexible to meet the individual child’s needs. If a party is not adhering to contact and agreements have been made but continually broken a Defined Contact Order may assist. If this is an area of concern please do not hesitate to contact us in order that your specific concerns can be addressed.