Making an application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order can be a daunting process as there are a lot of different kinds of order that the Court can consider. Usually the court will make an order directing who the child should live with, be that on the basis of shared care or one parent having principal care. The Court can also direct who the child should spend time with, most usually the parent with whom the child does not live. There are however other options in addition to the “live with” and “spends time with” orders, relating to the alternative contact that can take place between a parent and a child. The contact that the Court will order can depend on whether there are any safeguarding concerns about the parent seeking contact with the child. This can also determine whether there will be a direct contact order on indirect contact. Direct contact means face to face contact with a child whereas indirect contact means contact where you are unable to see your child in person.
Supported Child Contact
This is a type of direct contact and helps to keep a child in touch with parents if trust has broken down or communication is difficult. It enables the parents not to have to meet and is a form of contact where the level of risk is assessed to be lower than might be the case for supervised contact (see below). It is also used as a way to progress from supervised contact. In supported contact, direct observations are not made and reports are not written. Staff or volunteers will be present to ensure the comfort of those engaging in the service.
Supervised Child Contact
If there is a potential risk of harm, a contact centre can ensure the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child in a one to one observed setting. This is provided where it is assessed that there might be a higher risk or greater complexity in family circumstances. These sessions will be supervised by staff who are experienced in this role, observations can be made and reports can be written. It is generally expected that staff will remain within sight and sound of the child at all times.
Child Handover at a Contact Centre
A contact centre can be used simply as a drop-off/pick up point allowing for the fact that parents don’t have to meet. This is a service offered by some contact centres in order to support a child moving from one parent to another and the contact will take place away from the centre with no professional involvement but with the centre used as a handover venue only.
Contact can occur using an online video platform such as Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp video call. Virtual contact can either be supervised or supported. The other parent can supervise these sessions but would normally be directed not to be present in such a way that would distract the child from having contact with the other parent.
These can be used to identify the issues that have prevented contact from starting, causing it to breakdown or make it unworkable. Preparatory work is a service offered mostly by supervised contact centres and can be offered to adults or children. The aim of this is to prepare people for contact, what it might be like and what emotions they might experience. Preparatory work can be most effective where parents or a child are very anxious or where there has been little or no contact for long periods of time.
Indirect Child Contact
Indirect contact takes place where direct contact is either unsafe or unworkable and is not in the child’s best interest. It is a generic term for a wide variety of activities that might be considered contact to include sending letters or cards or sending gifts. The role of a professional (such as a solicitor) is often to support this process by ensuring that the gifts are appropriate and the letters do not contain inappropriate messages prior to forwarding these on to the child.
Life Stories/Identity Contact
This is a process of helping a child to understand and make sense of his/her life. It is offered to a child living in care although it can also be used for other purposes. The aim of such a service is to help him/her understand the things that have happened in their life and therefore to support a child, in developing a sense of identity and therefore reducing emotional distress. A Life story often concludes with a product for a child to keep and treasure which might be a book, DVD, treasure box or various other things.
If you are struggling to agree child care or contact arrangements, we are here to help. Our offices offer free or fixed fee consultations to discuss children matters, divorce, matrimonial finances or any aspect of family law. Consultations can take place by telephone or by zoom.
This article was brought to you by our family team at Kidd Rapinet Maidenhead. You can book an appointment with any of the family lawyers across our other offices in Aylesbury, Canary Wharf, Farnham, High Wycombe, Maidenhead or Slough, using the form provided. Please use the links provided to find more information on divorce or separation, child arrangements and other areas of family law.
These materials and content have been prepared for the benefit of their viewers/readers. They are intended for marketing purposes only and are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice applicable to any particular facts or circumstances. Kidd Rapinet LLP and/or the author(s) accept no duty of care, responsibility or liability for any loss or damage which you or any third party may suffer as a result of any reliance or use by you or them of these marketing materials and content, except to the extent it is not legally possible to exclude such liability. If you require legal advice on your own situation, please contact us so we can discuss how we may assist.