Home > Legal > Contact Orders: the Process

Contact Orders: the Process

By: Elizabeth Mugan BA/BSc, PGDipLaw, BVC, CIArb - Updated: 12 Nov 2018 |
 
Contact Order Contact Parents Child

As a devoted father, you will want to maintain a close relationship with your children. Hopefully, your relationship will remain amicable with the mother of your children. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and you may find that you have to fight to see your children or alternatively, if the children live with you, then their mother may wish for contact.

There are a number of types of arrangements which can work for different families. The courts can make several orders under the Children Act 1989 in order to facilitate those arrangements where necessary.

The Courts are primarily concerned with the welfare of the child or children above everything else. Under section 8 of the Children Act, the Court can make a contact order.

A contact order specifies how often the parent who does not live with the child should see the child or children and the terms of that contact.

The Process

If you wish to apply for a contact order, the actual process differs according to your locality. You will need to make an application to either the County Court, the High Court or the Family Proceedings Court. A copy of the application is then served on the Respondent, who is commonly the other parent.

CAFCASS Officer

You will then be required to attend a hearing. At that hearing or shortly before, both parents are usually invited to attend a relatively brief meeting with a Children and Families Court Advisory Service officer (also known as a CAFCASS Officer). A CAFCASS Officer is someone who is experienced in dealing with conflicts regarding children. At this meeting, the Officer listens to both parties and sees if there are any areas of agreement.

First Hearing

During the first hearing, the Judge (usually a District Judge) will ask the CAFCASS Officer for advice (if they are present) and will identify the areas of agreement and also any areas in dispute such as visitation rights etc. This hearing is usually short in length and in most instances the parents may not even speak with the Judge.

Where no agreement is reached, the Judge may ask for a detailed report to be drafted by the CAFCASS Officer. This can take anything from three to four months and therefore, you may wish to request that the Court grants some contact in the interim period.

What Will the Report Detail?

The CAFCASS Officer will interview and possibly observe a number of things before reporting back to the Court. They will want to speak with both parents, possibly the school and may want to speak with family members. They may also wish to observe contact between parent and child in some cases. Depending on the age of the child, an Officer will speak to them alone to understand their wishes and feelings. The report is not “secret” and both parents get to see a copy before it goes in front of the Judge.

After this stage, there will be a further short hearing. A court will not always make an order. Most cases end at this point once both parents have reviewed the recommendations of the CAFCASS Officer and they decide to try the recommended contact arrangements.

What Are the Considerations?

When reviewing applications, the Court, Judge and CAFCASS Officer will take a number of factors into consideration with regards to the child or children’s welfare. These are:

  • What is deemed to be best for the child and the feelings and wishes of the child. This is considered according to the child's age and understanding;
  • How capable the parents (and any other relevant people) are of meeting the needs of the child or children;
  • Any harm that the child is at risk of suffering or has suffered;
  • The likely affect of a change of circumstances on the child;
  • The age, background, personality, sex and any other characteristics that the Court believes to be relevant; and
  • The child's emotional, physical and educational needs.

Final Hearing

Only if a parent does not agree to the recommendations, will a final hearing take place. In these circumstances, the Court hears evidence from the parents and any witnesses as necessary, before finally making a Contact Order.

It is important to remember that although this process may seem rather arduous and lengthy, the end result will be worth it. The most important consideration for the Court is what is best for the child. If you are a good father and want the best for your child or children, then you will be able to have contact with them in the end. Good luck and if you are fortunate enough to get the contact you need, check out our feature on coping between contact periods.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Not seen my daughter for 4 years my ex has given my daughter a new phone and my ex has the old one so when i text my daughter she can put what she likes plus we went to mediation did not work my ex is pulling all strings and stops its hurting me plus my ex has court order in place to promote contact with my daughter and she has not done it or tried to all of this stemmed from 2013 when she came home and said i havent loved you for 2 and half years then with in a week i was out but yet i had to explain to my daughter why it hurts me my daughter 16 next year and still to this day text her regular but no response but yet my ex still contacts csa all the time i am paying for my daughter that i dont see cos of my ex i cannot speak to school or nothing please help
Blanny - 12-Nov-18 @ 6:15 PM
My ex keeps saying, either agree to what arrangements she's suggesting, or take it to court. I used to see my daughter after work for a few hours on a Monday and Wednesday, then overnight friday, I was 15 minutes late dropping litlen off one Wednesday, and ex says "that's it, no contact, take it to court" Not really thinking of litlen... Anyway, exes mother got involved, and it was arranged that I pick litlen up after work on a Friday from hers, and drop her off there on the Saturday too. So it's gone from seeing litlen 4 times a week and one overnight stay...to just one overnight stay, and me doing all the picking up and dropping off. The ex is now suggesting that I have litlen every other weekend, which in my eyes, isn't in the best interest of my child, as litlen used to seeing me minimum on a weekly basis... I'll add that the ex will not allow any midweek phonecalls between me and my child, unless I buy a 5 year old a mobile phone, which will only be turn on when the mother wants it on. The system is a joke, as I don't think I can afford even the application fee for court, so she will still be in control of all situations, which I thinks unfair on my child.
Lee - 30-Oct-18 @ 10:00 AM
I been having my children 50 /50 with my ex now she want to cut the time and I don’t have a court order what can I do. As I do reading and bath them, which when they are with her, they only have a bath the night before coming to me and never read or nearly never do their homework . HELP ME I don’t want to lose my time with my boys
J - 27-Oct-18 @ 8:05 AM
Due to my ex saying in court at first hearing I ain't saw my kids for a year which is a lie in was having them every weekend till she stop me seeing them Xmas so the courts gave me in diret access by phone first month then a contact centre every 2 weeks till January when the nxt hearing is trouble is my ex is bitter cause I remarriedI rang kids on Sat unfortunately I think my ex has been in there heads my daughter is 8 and son is 6 and they are telling me daddy u don't love us u remarried we don't want to know u is said even though I remarried I always think ov u now I'm at a loss as to weather give up as my ex as a lot of influence on my kids even if I went to a contact centre will be the same I know it's hard to prove if my ex is doin this but I definitely recon she is any advice thank you
Glen - 15-Oct-18 @ 10:41 AM
Hi, I was wondering about the whole contact with father, I have just got out of a 5 year physical and mental abusive relationship in which my children’s father raped me, beat me up and almost killed me. I ended this relationship in July on that day he strangled me and hit my youngest child which resulted in him getting a black eye, he has abused all my children constantly over the years and now we are awaiting to go to court in October. I want to stop him getting contact as he trying to obtain full custody of the children, he has never done anything for them, or even been a father to them I have done it on my own from the start, I’ve been in touch with a solicitor to get some sort of contact or residence order, but I want him rights taken away as he is an unfit father and he is abusive to my children I do not want him to be part of my children’s life or mine either. Now when we go to court if he is found guilty (he pleaded not guilty, but said he was guilty in his police statement the day it happened) if he is found guilty he will most likely serve time for this but if he gets off with it then he will try to take the children from me and obtain full custody I have witnesses and evidence of the way he was with my children and I will make sure he doesn’t get contact with them, I just want to know if I will be successful in this because my children are much better off without him they have just started school and my youngest will be starting nursery soon they are doing brilliantly and I don’t want him to start having contact with them and mess it all up. Can I have some advice as to what else I can do to stop him having contact?
Mummyof3beauties! - 20-Sep-18 @ 10:16 AM
Hello Sam ??i am sorry to hear you are disabled .you stick to your guns and do not take your ex back .you need a solicitor old chap only son
Chris - 15-Sep-18 @ 2:28 AM
My wife sent a non molestation order against me and kept away my girls for 9 months, 6 and 3. I’m disabled and had never lifted a finger against her but at the court hearing when the judge asked about contact; it was decided, every 2 weeks for the day. It’s been 2 months and my girls have been staying with me over night, travelling to family, etc. My wife now wants me back, and I said no. She has now stopped sending the kids. What can I do?
Sam - 14-Sep-18 @ 10:46 PM
tree - Your Question:
Hi wondering if anyone has any advice. I'm a mum of a 4 year old daughter. Spilt from ex partner when my daughter was a baby.Everything was amical.Ex was taking daughter Fri-sun one week Thurs-fri the next week.I always thought 2 overnights was fair but he would never agree. Anyways an argument broke out and now refusing to take her 2 nights.He sent an email of dates he would take her it was one over night every 10 days. I told him to forget it. My daughter was really upset as was expecting her father to take her on Friday.Can I apply for a court order/Joint custody. I want to fight for my daughter don't want a once every 2 weeks father, looking for any advice, anyone in similar situation. ? thanks

Our Response:
The standard access generally awarded by the courts is every other weekend overnight and one night in the week (not overnight). However, it is unlikely a court will force your ex to take your child if and where he is unwilling. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 3-Sep-18 @ 3:11 PM
Hi wondering if anyone has any advice. I'm a mum of a 4 year old daughter. Spilt from ex partner when my daughter was a baby. Everything was amical. Ex was taking daughter Fri-sun one week Thurs-fri the next week. I always thought 2 overnights was fair but he would never agree. Anyways an argument broke out and now refusing to take her 2 nights. He sent an email of dates he would take her it was one over night every 10 days. I told him to forget it. My daughter was really upset as was expecting her father to take her on Friday. Can I apply for a court order/Joint custody. I want to fight for my daughter don't want a once every 2 weeks father, looking for any advice, anyone in similar situation. ? thanks
tree - 3-Sep-18 @ 9:04 AM
I applied to court for full residency and they granted it me and the father got no direct contact only indirect because of his violent nature, can I allow him to see her with me present in a place that has cameras or do I have to go back to court? I never wanted him not to see her it was the threats of takin them to another country so I couldn’t have them
Mumof3girls - 27-Aug-18 @ 7:38 PM
TJ - Your Question:
I have a 14 month old daughter and have been refused access for the last 4 months I've never had full access since birth now I've been cut off completely and she's threatening court to remove parental rights, changing her name and getting a passport ect so far anything she's lied about she's got away with so I'm assuming the same will happen in court when it finally gets to it. What do I do?

Our Response:
You don't say whether you have parental responsibility. If you don't, then your ex can get a passport for your child and/or change her name without your consent. If so, you may wish to apply for PR, please see the link here . The court is accustomed to dealing with potential lies. You may wish to join our Separated Dads forum if you are thinking about taking the matter to court, as having knowledge about the system and its workings will help. Please also see the link here, which outlines the process .
SeparatedDads - 9-Aug-18 @ 10:13 AM
I have a 14 month old daughter and have been refused access for the last 4 months I've never had full access since birth now I've been cut off completely and she's threatening court to remove parental rights, changing her name and getting a passport ect so far anything she's lied about she's got away with so I'm assuming the same will happen in court when it finally gets to it. What do I do?
TJ - 8-Aug-18 @ 9:28 AM
TP - Your Question:
My 13 year old daughter who I had regular agreed access to has now decided she no longer wishes to stay with me and my wife. She would make excuses to not come down, now she is flat out refusing saying a lot of hurtful things to us. Her mum and stepdad claim to have encouraged her to come down and that sorting access is between myself and my daughter, but knowing them as I do, I know they will be manipulating her and discouraging her from staying over.Can a child of 13 make the choice not to visit her dad, who up til last year had very frequent visitation with his child? I fear my daughter is being used as a pawn in a game, however I fully understand that at her age her hormones and emotions must be all over the place.Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. This is a tricky situation and one that should be sorted out through communication and to try to find out what the issues are. You could force the issue and apply to court (if your child's other parent won't agree to mediation). However, pushing the issue is the last resort and you should perhaps try to sort the matter out outside of court in this instance. A court will listen to the reasons your child gives. However, as in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 6-Aug-18 @ 3:38 PM
My 13 year old daughter who I had regular agreed access to has now decided she no longer wishes to stay with me and my wife. She would make excuses to not come down, now she is flat out refusing saying a lot of hurtful things to us. Her mum and stepdad claim to have encouraged her to come down and that sorting access is between myself and my daughter, but knowing them as I do, I know they will be manipulating her and discouraging her from staying over. Can a child of 13 make the choice not to visit her dad, who up til last year had very frequent visitation with his child? I fear my daughter is being used as a pawn in a game, however I fully understand that at her age her hormones and emotions must be all over the place. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
TP - 3-Aug-18 @ 7:32 PM
Hi , my friend has a 11 year old daughter which has had contactwith her for the whole time him and his ex has split up which 7 years now but the only way he can have his daughter if he keeps contact with the mother. Which is fine but She constantly call and messages both withabuse and general. So he has asked for a third personto be involved so he doesn't have any distressbut she isn't willing for that to happen, she has put in a message if he don't speak to her directly he not allowed to see his daughter. Is there any advice he can have please
Racheal - 21-Jul-18 @ 8:23 AM
Destiny - Your Question:
My friend has split from her ex.they have a 4 month old baby together ,they both have parental responsibility, but he has taken the baby and is refusing her access.what does she need to do to get him back

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. The link here , will help answer your question.
SeparatedDads - 13-Jul-18 @ 1:44 PM
My friend has split from her ex .they have a 4 month old baby together ,they both have parental responsibility, but he has taken the baby and is refusing her access .what does she need to do to get him back
Destiny - 13-Jul-18 @ 10:14 AM
Gill - Your Question:
My son has a 3 year old daughter. Her mum has decided she doesn't want to be together so she has moved to her mother's with my granddaughter. She won't allow my son to see his daughter or even speak on the phone to him. None of our family are allowed to have anything more to do with her. I have more or less brought that little girl up and it's killing me not being able to see her and killing my son. He has done nothing wrong but his ex will make up all kinds of stories about him. I shared a wonderful close bond with my granddaughter and she loves being with us. I hate to think what her mother is saying to her about me. My son and myself have contacted a mediation centre to try and set up mediation and if that doesn't work we will go to court. He wants joint custody and me and his dad will help out too. Can she just refuse to let us see the little one and are we doing the right thing

Our Response:
You are doing the right thing. Unless your son's ex can prove that he should not be in his daughter's life then in all likelihood access will be granted. Shared-care will only be granted if prior to the relationship breaking down only if your son had shared-care then.
SeparatedDads - 21-Jun-18 @ 3:25 PM
My son has a 3 year old daughter. Her mum has decided she doesn't want to be together so she has moved to her mother's with my granddaughter. She won't allow my son to see his daughter or even speak on the phone to him. None of our family are allowed to have anything more to do with her. I have more or less brought that little girl up and it's killing me not being able to see her and killing my son. He has done nothing wrong but his ex will make up all kinds of stories about him. I shared a wonderful close bond with my granddaughter and she loves being with us. I hate to think what her mother is saying to her about me. My son and myself have contacted a mediation centre to try and set up mediation and if that doesn't work we will go to court. He wants joint custody and me and his dad will help out too. Can she just refuse to let us see the little one and are we doing the right thing
Gill - 20-Jun-18 @ 10:55 PM
Matt - Your Question:
In April 15 I was drunk in charge of my son he was 10 at the time went for a pizza got in a taxi left him at shop police picked him up 5 min later took him to his mum's aye got fined had to do 18 month's community pay back order did the order as asked still have knot seen my son 2018 can you advise thanks x

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice regarding this matter to see whether you have a case to take this to court. Only a court can decide what it thinks is in the best interests of your son. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 15-Jun-18 @ 3:34 PM
In April 15 I was drunk in charge of my son he was 10 at the time went for a pizza got in a taxi left him at shop police picked him up 5 min later took him to his mum's aye got fined had to do 18 month's community pay back order did the order as asked still have knot seen my son 2018 can you advise thanks x
Matt - 15-Jun-18 @ 11:19 AM
My son has an eight year old daughter. He had access once a week plus she stayed over at his house every weekend. His ex has had three other men live with her since they split before his daughter was one. My son has had the same partner for 7 years. 2 years ago my sons ex took his daughter on hoilday to visit her parents 300 miles away in Devon and never came back. My son was devastated but eventually they agreed access in the school holidays and my son also goes to see her in Devon in between holidays. His ex also has another younger daughter who does not see her father. Just over a year ago she met a new man and is expecting his baby. My sons daughter came to stay in the holidays as usual and on the day she was due to go home she told my some some quite alarming things about her mothers boyfriend. Though she is not in immediate danger, the boyfriend has behaved in a wholly inappropriate manner and it makes my grandaughter uncomfortable. My son decided not to take his daughter back until he can ensure her safety. He has contacted police to inform them he has her and as there is no court order. He is seeking legal represenation but we are all so worried. can anyone advise please
angela clarkson - 5-Jun-18 @ 10:14 AM
Claire - Your Question:
My husbands ex has moved to Scotland we need a contact order is it the same c100 form as in England or and different form as we are going to have to go to the Scottish court

Our Response:
You can see more regarding the Scottish process via the link here.
SeparatedDads - 17-May-18 @ 2:41 PM
My husbands ex has moved to Scotland we need a contact order is it the same c100 form as in England or and different form as we are going to have to go to the Scottish court
Claire - 17-May-18 @ 9:41 AM
@daddy - you can counter-apply to court. I would apply for a child arrangement order yourself. Don't wait for your ex. It is more advisable if you do, as you are applying on your terms.
WillM - 11-May-18 @ 3:48 PM
Buttons86 - Your Question:
My ex ended the relationship end of Jan.i came bk home to fermanagh,Was living in lisburn.she didn't want me living in lisburnanymore.i came bk to mums to think for a couple of days.i returned bk to lisburn after the weekend.we talked and she agreed access to my son so I packed and left.i done everything she wanted me to do so to make it easier for her.i get bk to fermanagh and she says I can't see my boy.she won't give me my things in house and ain't replying to messages or answering calls.her and her entire family have blocked me now.i ain't seen my boy in 10 weeks now between trying to find somewhere to live and her not allowing me to see him.i missed his birthday on the 17th of the month.ive spoken to solicitor and wrote her a letter but now he has told me we are applying for legal aid then apply to the court for a contact order.any idea how long all this will take??killing me that I can't see my boy and I missed his birthday.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear you are missing your son. Much depends on how busy the family law courts are, so it is impossible to give a time frame as there can be several meetings. You can see more via the link here. You may wish to ask your solicitor (if you have one) if you can apply for an interim court order. Our Separated Dads forum members should be able to help you out regarding time frames and the process, as many have been through the courts previously.
SeparatedDads - 11-May-18 @ 11:47 AM
Hi,I haven't seen my kids for 3 months now,i have a 2 year old and a 3 year old,I attended MIAM first session 2 months ago but the mediator told me my ex didn't want to mediate and wanted to apply for her own residency order,how does she apply if she hasn't got the signed form from mediation? Or will the mediator have still given her the order form? Thanks
daddy - 10-May-18 @ 9:49 PM
My ex ended the relationship end of Jan.i came bk home to fermanagh,Was living in lisburn.she didn't want me living in lisburnanymore.i came bk to mums to think for a couple of days.i returned bk to lisburn after the weekend.we talked and she agreed access to my son so I packed and left.i done everything she wanted me to do so to make it easier for her.i get bk to fermanagh and she says I can't see my boy.she won't give me my things in house and ain't replying to messages or answering calls.her and her entire family have blocked me now.i ain't seen my boy in 10 weeks now between trying to find somewhere to live and her not allowing me to see him.i missed his birthday on the 17th of the month.ive spoken to solicitor and wrote her a letter but now he has told me we are applying for legal aid then apply to the court for a contact order.any idea how long all this will take??killing me that I can't see my boy and I missed his birthday.
Buttons86 - 10-May-18 @ 12:15 AM
The Bear - Your Question:
Am separated from my partner I have 2 daughters but Found out she has mental health. Problems. And my daughter are now living with there grandparents. Do I have the right to take my daughter's from there grandparents

Our Response:
You can see more via the link here, which will tell you all you need to know.
SeparatedDads - 23-Apr-18 @ 3:09 PM
The ??- Your Question:
My sons x has his 2 daughters but just Found our she has mental health. Problems. And my daughter are now living with there grandparents. Could I go and take my daughter's from there grandparents

Our Response:
You don't say whether there is a court order in place allowing your daughter to live with her grandparents, or whether you have parental responsibility of your child. Both would make a difference. If there is a residence order in place, you would not be allowed to take your children. You can see more via the link here . However, even if you do have the rights to look after your child, it is never a good idea to take your child without permission, as it can backfire.
SeparatedDads - 23-Apr-18 @ 12:32 PM
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