Child contact FAQs
Q: Is contact important for children?
A: Yes, according to research. Children who adjust best to life after a family split-up are those who have ongoing contact with both their parents.
Q: Is agreeing contact difficult?
A: It can be fraught and in the most acrimonious split-ups may cause serious amounts of conflict. This usually centres around perceived unfairness - how much time children spend with each parent and the divvying up of caring responsibilities.
Q: How do I go about working out contact arrangements?
A: The crucial thing is to start with the needs of your child, not the needs of you or your ex. Patterns of care and contact must be in your child's best interests, and this pattern may change over time. The adults have to resist allowing the division of parenting time to become a weapon against the other parent because this can only end up hurting your child, instead.
Q: What happens if we can't agree over contact arrangements?
A: You may need to get outside help. Trained mediators may be able to offer a way forward. If things reach a point where there's a stalemate, you may need to turn to the family courts for help.
Q: What's a reasonable amount of contact time?
A: There is no one-size-fits-all type of contact. It will vary according to how much care you can realistically provide, how much you've done in the past and practical stuff such as working hours and getting children to nursery or school and back.
• 10 ways to protect your child from the effects of separation
• Fathers' parental responsibility
• Reaching agreement with your child's mother
• Reaching agreement without the courts
• Making co-parenting work
Q Is the law biased in favour of mothers?
A: No, the law doesn't favour either parent over the other. A court's paramount consideration is the child's welfare. Courts increasingly recognise that fathers have a significant role to play in their children's lives after separation, but individual judges may have personal attitudes (or prejudices) regarding mothers' and fathers' caring roles and abilities.
Q: What should I do if my child's mother has concerns about my parenting?
A: If you haven't looked after your children for extended periods of time on your own, then your child's mother may be anxious about how well you'll provide day-to-day care. Mothers and fathers may also prioritise different aspects of caring. Try to agree some ground rules, such as diet, changes of clothes, homework and bedtimes.
Q: Are contact arrangments flexible or set in stone?
A: The best contact arrangements are regular and consistent but also flexible. They will obviously also need to be age appropriate: younger children may stay with you every Saturday night, but a teenager will probably want the flexibility to do sleepovers at friends. Sorting out contact on an ongoing basis is, again, in the your child's best interests - and gives them important messages about cooperative behaviour.
Q: What happens if I'm struggling with my contact arrangement?
A: Don't panic. Talk to other fathers, look at the advice on Dad.info or here on Mumsnet, and see if real-life family can offer you some support. But if you really can't cope with your current arrangement, admit it, because that will be in your child's best interests.
Be upfront about why you can't handle the contact as it stands and work out a new contact pattern that does work. It's quality not quantity that your children will value.
- Chat to other fathers about making contact arrangements work
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