Home > Legal > Contact Orders: the Process

Contact Orders: the Process

By: Elizabeth Mugan BA/BSc, PGDipLaw, BVC, CIArb - Updated: 17 May 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
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
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
The Bear - 22-Apr-18 @ 11:58 PM
My sons x has his 2 daughtersbut 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
The ?? - 22-Apr-18 @ 11:50 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 - 20-Apr-18 @ 1:19 AM
Can anybody give me some advise
Buttons86 - 20-Apr-18 @ 1:11 AM
Aj - Your Question:
Hi, my ex is stopping me see our 11 month old son due to the fact I won't give her my new address. I've denied her my address because she is abusive towards me and my new partner and I don't want trouble on my doorstep. How do I move forward so I can see my son.

Our Response:
There is no right or wrong here. Where you cannot agree with your ex, your only recourse would be to follow the process laid out in the link here .
SeparatedDads - 12-Apr-18 @ 12:43 PM
@Youngmum123 - it's usually the court that orders drugs tests if it thinks they are needed.
MicTCH - 12-Apr-18 @ 11:09 AM
Hi, my ex is stopping me see our 11 month old son due to the fact I won't give her my new address. I've denied her my address because she is abusive towards me and my new partner and I don't want trouble on my doorstep. How do I move forward so I can see my son.
Aj - 11-Apr-18 @ 8:19 PM
Hi my ex has taken my child away. I have contacted mediation and he has told me when they contact him he's refusing and I will be taking him to court for a contact order. He has said once it's goes to court he's ordering drugs tests on both of us to prove he's no longer on drugs as he was when he split and to prove I haven't started to take them since we have split. Which I have not. But I want to know who pays for the drugs test and what they usually test wether it's hair or urine. Also if he asks for them will they do them just over a contact order.
Youngmum123 - 11-Apr-18 @ 4:31 PM
Fran - Your Question:
Hi. My husband has had regular access to his son over the last ten yrs (every other weekend and a holiday each yr) we have never been able to have him over Xmas or new yr despite expressing our desire to, and she has stated she realises this is unfair but she can't be without him) thry have had a volatile relationship and following a recent disagreement she has now stated we cannot take him on holiday this yr. we are considering a contact order to set in stone holidays, weekends and every other Christmas. Any advice would really be welcomed.

Our Response:
Mediation would be the first option your husband should suggest to his ex. If his ex refuses, then he would be permitted to apply to court. Please see link here regarding how the process works.
SeparatedDads - 5-Apr-18 @ 2:37 PM
Hi. My husband has had regular access to his son over the last ten yrs (every other weekend and a holiday each yr) we have never been able to have him over Xmas or new yr despite expressing our desire to, and she has stated she realises this is unfair but she can't be without him) thry have had a volatile relationship and following a recent disagreement she has now stated we cannot take him on holiday this yr. we are considering a contact order to set in stone holidays, weekends and every other Christmas. Any advice would really be welcomed.
Fran - 1-Apr-18 @ 11:46 PM
Niknik- Your Question:
Hi, my son has a 6 year old daughter. Unfortunately her mother and nan seem to have a weekly wager on who can torment my son and granddaughter. One minute she can see her dad then they make up lies and excuses of why he cannot see his daughter. The sad thing is they have such a beautiful bond and totally adore each other. I find it difficult to understand this behaviour. Just don't get it! My partner thinks we should pull back a bit but these mind games they play with the 2 has me worried about the impact this is having on my granddaughter and son. They went through mediation and then decided that my son could see his son but it comes with drama every weekend.

Our Response:
If the mediation process does not work, then your son would have the option to take the matter to court. If a court order is put in place, your son's ex (and your son) would have to keep to it.
SeparatedDads - 5-Mar-18 @ 2:56 PM
Hi, my son has a 6 year old daughter. Unfortunately her mother and nan seem to have a weekly wager on who can torment my son and granddaughter. One minute she can see her dad then they make up lies and excuses of why he cannot see his daughter. The sad thing is they have such a beautiful bond and totally adore each other. I find it difficult to understand this behaviour. Just don't get it! My partner thinks we should pull back a bit but these mind games they play with the 2 has me worried about the impact this is having on my granddaughter and son. They went through mediation and then decided that my son could see his son but it comes with drama every weekend.
Niknik - 3-Mar-18 @ 4:14 PM
Hi, my partners ex continuously misses the days where he’s supposed to have his 3 children. He was full time Dad for 11 years whilst his ex worked. He ended their relationship but continued to cohabit which resulted in a lot of domestic abuse and a few incidences of violence where police have been called, but she has gotten away with assault, threatening behaviour and criminal damage all infront of the children. The children see a family support worker. Things have calmed down, but he has continuous trouble having the children on his days in the times specific in the parental agreement (4-7 on school days). He will either not have them at all, or be told if he does not have them until 8:30 at night he cannot have them at all. (It isn’t realistic to have a 2 year old and other children under 10 until those times on a school night as he is homeless too. She tells one of the children that he’s going to live with his dad when he has somewhere to live in a nasty way. What can his father do legally to push this forward to assist him in being housed? He’d love to have all 3 live with him, the children have been alienated. What can he do to ensure he gets to see them? What is the likelihood of the children being able to live with him? We are working on getting help from the council,
Brewsky - 30-Jan-18 @ 5:19 PM
Hi, my partners ex continuously misses the days where he’s supposed to have his 3 children. He was full time Dad for 11 years whilst his ex worked. He ended their relationship but continued to cohabit which resulted in a lot of domestic abuse and a few incidences of violence where police have been called, but she has gotten away with assault, threatening behaviour and criminal damage all infront of the children. The children see a family support worker. Things have calmed down, but he has continuous trouble having the children on his days in the times specific in the parental agreement (4-7 on school days). He will either not have them at all, or be told if he does not have them until 8:30 at night he cannot have them at all. (It isn’t realistic to have a 2 year old and other children under 10 until those times on a school night as he is homeless too. She tells one of the children that he’s going to live with his dad when he has somewhere to live in a nasty way. What can his father do legally to push this forward to assist him in being housed? He’d love to have all 3 live with him, the children have been alienated. What can he do to ensure he gets to see them? What is the likelihood of the children being able to live with him? We are working on getting help from the council,
Brewsky - 30-Jan-18 @ 5:19 PM
Shimmy - Your Question:
Hi, I moved from Spain to support my ex after his sister died, he left me and our daughter 7 months after having her, I’m alone on my own in surrey, I wanted to move back to Spain with Darcey but he had an order put in place, I live in Brighton for a year years ago and would like to move back. it’s an hour away from where we currently live, what procedure would I take in order to do this please as he’s already told me he won’t allow it

Our Response:
You would have to request your ex attends mediation, and if he refuses, apply to court. It is unlikely a court would refuse this, if you wish to move an hour away. You may also wish to speak to a solicitor, as a solicitor's letter may work if you are only contemplating moving a short distance away. Much depends upon what the standing court order says.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jan-18 @ 10:44 AM
Hi, I moved from Spain to support my ex after his sister died, he left me and our daughter 7 months after having her, I’m alone on my own in surrey, I wanted to move back to Spain with Darcey but he had an order put in place, I live in Brighton for a year years ago and would like to move back... it’s an hour away from where we currently live, what procedure would I take in order to do this please as he’s already told me he won’t allow it
Shimmy - 25-Jan-18 @ 10:59 AM
liverpool- Your Question:
Hi. my ex husband has my daughter living with him she is now aged 16 she wants her passaport bur her dad and herself doesn't want to visit. I think she is brain washed against her mum. how can I have contact supervized visit she is maltese her dad is maltese bur the divorce is done in the UK. I have still got parental responsibility but I am scared that he is doing everything so he takes that away. when I asked how she is doing ï an always been denied

Our Response:
Your only recourse would be to take the matter to court. However, an international court would cost. Plus, if your daughter is 16 and is requesting not to see you, then she would be able to give a preference. You would have to be able to prove 'aprental alienation' - please see link here. 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 - 8-Dec-17 @ 12:48 PM
hi. my ex husbandhas my daughter living with him she is now aged 16she wants her passaport bur her dad and herself doesn't want to visit. I think she is brain washed against her mum. how can I have contact supervized visit she is maltese her dad is maltese bur the divorce is done in the UK. I have still got parental responsibilitybut I am scared that he is doing everything so he takes that away. when I asked how she is doing ï an always been denied
liverpool - 7-Dec-17 @ 11:51 PM
I married my ex wive back in August 2004 and we divorced in Feb 2015. We have two children who are 10 and 4. Now she has a new partner whom she had another child with and she changed her number and address but still lives in same city. As i was devastated and depressed i left UK to go my country. I have no job and no income at all and i am being supported by my family (sisters) until i find a job. Now it has been a year since i have not had contact with my kids and i miss them so much. I tried via her friends and family members to alliw me to at leasy speak to my kids over the phone. What can i do to get access to my kids legally? Obviously because of being unemployed i am not supporting them monetarily. Please advice as i am desperate to have access to my kids.
YB - 14-Nov-17 @ 1:12 AM
NotaBene - Your Question:
We married in May 2014 in London (Camden) where we lived at that time. In November 2014 our son was born there. Same month we moved to North London (Enfield). In April 2015 we split. My ex moved to Central London (Maida Vale). In June 2015 she left the country with my son. She used a written permission I gave her before we split. Originally she continued to work from abroad commuting each month to London. During this time my son stayed abroad. She explained that this arrangement makes it easier for her to take care of our son due to the presence of her extended family. She also wanted to stay close to her mum as she is battling cancer.Originally I had sympathy and understanding for this arrangement and did not object to it even though the written permission I gave her expired in October 2016. However, it became increasingly difficult to have contact with my son. She would cancel arrangements on a short notice. She would also obstruct my son visiting my family. It went like this for more than a year.What can I do in this case? I basically would like to be able to see my son for at least a few days every 3 months. I also would like to alternate the holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year Eve, his Birthday) between me and my ex (e.g. one year my son spends Christmas with her family, one with mine). My ex says that she may agree to the visits every 3 months (although so far she often changed her mind on a short notice so I can't trust her word on this) but she would not agree to alternate the holidays. Can I do something about it?My ex has British and foreign nationality - same like my son.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. As with any disagreement of this nature, mediation should be the first port of call, please see link here. If your ex refuses to negotiate via mediation, then you would be allowed to apply to court. If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate. However, you may wish to seek professional legal advice due to the international aspect to your situation which may complicate matters.
SeparatedDads - 3-Nov-17 @ 10:44 AM
We married in May 2014 in London (Camden) where we lived at that time. In November 2014 our son was born there. Same month we moved to North London (Enfield). In April 2015 we split. My ex moved to Central London (Maida Vale). In June 2015 she left the country with my son. She used a written permission I gave her before we split. Originally she continued to work from abroad commuting each month to London. During this time my son stayed abroad. She explained that this arrangement makes it easier for her to take care of our son due to the presence of her extended family. She also wanted to stay close to her mum as she is battling cancer. Originally I had sympathy and understanding for this arrangement and did not object to it even though the written permission I gave her expired in October 2016. However, it became increasingly difficult to have contact with my son. She would cancel arrangements on a short notice. She would also obstruct my son visiting my family. It went like this for more than a year. What can I do in this case? I basically would like to be able to see my son for at least a few days every 3 months. I also would like to alternate the holidays (Christmas, Easter, New Year Eve, his Birthday) between me and my ex (e.g. one year my son spends Christmas with her family, one with mine). My ex says that she may agree to the visits every 3 months (although so far she often changed her mind on a short notice so I can't trust her word on this) but she would not agree to alternate the holidays. Can I do something about it? My ex has British and foreign nationality - same like my son.
NotaBene - 2-Nov-17 @ 6:37 PM
I split with my ex 9 years ago. I have 3 boys 10yrs, 13yrs and 17yrs. I pay regular money every month without fail and have had them stay over 2 to 3 nights per week. Also I pay for other items such as gym membership, sports classes etc. My ex has been awkward with regards to signing a divorce paper as I am due to get married again to a wonderful lady I met 2 years after the split. I paid the initial £550 and had paperwork sent out twice but it was never returned to the courts. I explained to my ex that if it wasn't returned it would cost a further £50 which I did not have so it would leave a £50 shortfall on the maintenance money for the following month. As the court still did not receive anything (my ex is adamant that she sent them on both occasions) I payed the due fee and had to adjust the maintenance on this occasion. My ex is now saying that the children cannot stay over midweek only at weekends and she will take me for every penny via child maintenance as they wont be staying over as often and make it as difficult as possible, I cannot facilitate every weekend due my work commitments and shift pattern. However I would like my children to stay over when I am off like they always have. I don't know which way to turn because this happens on and off regularly when something does not agree with her. She denies that they stay the amount of time that they do and tells the children that I am a liar and do not really have to work weekends and only have them midweek because it lowers my maintenance fees. I cannot discuss it with her because it simply results in her shouting and screeming in front of the children which I most certainly do not want. Any advice would be welcomed.
Gjh - 26-Oct-17 @ 4:28 AM
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