By Carla Fraser
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Reinstating contact with your child- what to do if a parent takes away your contact rights?

Why has contact stopped?

Contact centres arounds the needs of the child more so than any other party involved in the matter. Sometimes a parent can abruptly stop contact with your child if you are not paying enough maintenance, you have started a new relationship, or for other personal reasons. A parent is more prone to stop contact if you are separated and do not live together as it is easier for them to do when you do not live in the same household as your child.

However, a child has the right to spend time with both of their parents and it is important to always consider their needs despite the problems you may have with the other party. Moreover, it is detrimental to the child to stop contact if the child has created a bond with the other parent or party and is of age to understand the situation and what is going on around them. Such conflicts involving contact disputes should be aimed to be resolved immediately to prevent prolonged harm to the child. The longer a child goes without contact after being accustomed to contact with this party, the more damaging it will be to the child.

It is important to note that not only can contact stop against a parent, but it can also be against grandparents, aunts and uncles, brother and sisters and anyone with a close relationship to the child in question. Any of these listed individuals can apply to reinstate contact with the subject child.

What can I do to reinstate contact?

If a parent is unreasonably withholding you from contact with your child, you should seek legal advice and avoid altercations and arguments as these can possibly be used against you at a later stage. These can be documented in the form of screenshotting text messages. You should consider and will be advised to consider negotiating a formal contact arrangement with the other party. These negotiations are recognised as pre-court correspondence and are necessary if the case is ever to proceed to court to show that steps were taken to resolve the matter.

Your solicitor will outline your requests to the other party and your potential views on contact arrangements and proposals. They will respond by either accepting, denying, or negotiating with these proposals. If the matter proceeds to court, there will then be a paper trail of your efforts and your proposals.

What if correspondence does not work?

Only if this party refuses to cooperate and engage with the contact arrangements and negotiations, only then is an application made to the court. Court proceedings are recognised as an option of last resort because it is not always in the best interests of the child to have them experience court proceedings. A Contact Order will be submitted on your behalf which will ultimately enforce the person with whom the child resides or lives to allow contact and visitation with the party bringing the application. There will be a series of Hearings and the specific details of the contact granted by the Judge and the steps involved will always be based on the best interests of the child and their needs.

What are the costs?

If you are eligible for Legal Aid, a Certificate may cover your court fees and solicitor fees. However, if you do not meet the criteria for legal aid your solicitor will advise you on the fees that the case will incur.

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