Indirect contact is better than no contact

Josie Hayes web

In a recent case Re A and B (contact) (No 4) [2015] EWHC 2839 the court, after years of litigation, made an order for indirect contact between a father and his children. The order was made despite reluctance from the children and the mother to agree to any form of contact. The judge emphasised that contact was in the best interests of the children and despite their reluctance held that an order was necessary to put in place a framework of expectations for contact.

The case concerned two children who were born following an arrangement between the mother and father who were both in same sex relationships. There had been numerous applications and court hearings over the course of several years. Initially the fathers had applied for direct contact and appropriate orders were made but not complied with. At the beginning of the most recent court hearing the father sought to withdraw their application for contact as a result of the mothers’ long standing opposition and the damage being caused to the children. The fathers expressed their love for both children but had resigned themselves to the fact that their contact would be severely limited.

The judge emphasised that making contact happen and making contact work is one of the most difficult and contentious challenges in the whole of family law. He reiterated that family cases can present problems that the court just cannot solve and highlighted that ongoing conflict between the parents had irredeemably marred the children’s childhood. Whilst restoring meaningful direct contact would undoubtedly be of immeasurable benefit to the children, the solution lies in the hands of the parents and not the courts.

The case highlights that in reality there is only so much a judge can do. Contact with both parents is beneficial to children and the onus is on both parents to ensure that they have, facilitate and support strong and meaningful relationships with their children.

Josephine Hayes is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich Solicitors.

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