Applications for contact are governed by Parts 18 and 19 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Part 18 applies to making applications to start proceedings, making applications in proceedings already commenced and making applications in relation to proceedings already concluded. Part 19 applies to applications for permission to appeal and applications not covered by Part 18.
Applications may either be to commence a case or relate to a case already proceeding. Once you have decided what order you wish to apply for, and have worked out in your Parenting Plan the detail of what you want from the court it is time to make your application.
You can make your application through a solicitor, which by the time you finish will cost you tens of thousands of pounds if you can’t get legal aid, or you can do it yourself as a Litigant in Person (LIP). Whatever the reason for your application, and the order you want as a result, the first vital piece of advice is to ACT QUICKLY. The longer you delay and the situation you are trying to reverse becomes established, the more difficult it will be for you to overturn it. Delay also gives the other parent more time to prepare their case and to make false allegations; they will probably still be made, but acting promptly allows less time to refine them.
An order for contact should direct the resident parent to make the child available to stay with the other parent or otherwise have contact. The details of the contact ordered by the court must be defined in a ‘schedule of contact’; this is referred to as ‘defined contact’. The schedule must be detailed and include when and where the child is to be collected, by whom, how long the child is to stay with you, and when and where the child is to be returned and to whom.
If you turn up to return your child and your children’s other parent or whoever you should be returning the child to is not there – perhaps she has sent a friend – you are within your rights not to return the child (though it is possible to delegate Parental Responsibility). It is important, therefore, that the order makes this clear. The resident parent may object to the schedule of contact, but it can form the basis for negotiation.
It is essential that a Contact Order is written in clear terms, so that both parties are in no doubt how to comply with it and will be aware if they are in breach. Moreover, the order should be in injunctive terms to both parties. Many impose an obligation on the respondent but not on the applicant.
Here are some of the tactics you can use when applying for contact:
· While you wait for court dates and reports, etc., always request an order for interim contact to ensure the relationship keeps going. The resident parent may object to this, but if you don’t ask you won’t get.
· Some parents and McKenzies recommend getting separate representation for your children from a NYAS officer or children’s solicitor.
· In addition to interim contact you can seek an interim residence order for 2 or 3 months, for example over the school summer holidays.
· Explain that your Parental Responsibility is being abused by the resident parent: that you are receiving no school reports, doctors’ reports, access to your children’s welfare etc. This should be easy to prove.
· Emphasise that the resident parent is thwarting contact for no good reason due to anger, alienation, etc. Again this should be easy to prove if it is true. Cast doubt on the mental state of the resident parent if there is good reason to do so, but be very careful not to overdo this.
· Use a McKenzie Friend in court and appeal all unfavourable decisions.
Contact Orders routinely provide insufficient time with your child, two hours every other Saturday is not unusual; even if you manage to get overnight staying contact it may only be every other Saturday night. The Government’s new commitment to paternal involvement avoids any mention of the quantum of contact. Reasonable contact will give you the whole weekend, alternate weeks, from Friday afternoon when you pick up your child from school to Monday morning when you return him. You will also have half of all school holidays and substantial contact at half-term; you may even get some mid-week contact.
This level of contact will enable you to meet your child’s school friends – and perhaps have them to stay over – and enable you to talk to his teachers; you will need a cooperative employer, though. Anything less than this will make maintaining a meaningful relationship more difficult. Once you have this level of contact there is absolutely no reason why you should not go on to increase it.
Remember that you as a parent have no rights. The only person with any legal rights is the child, so don’t write in your position statement or say anything in court that refers to your rights; concentrate on your child’s right to have a relationship with both parents, his grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. State also that your child is missing out on all the activities you used to do with her/him. It is really important that you put things in this way as it makes your application child-focussed and more likely to win the approval of CAFCASS.
Despite the huge number of Contact Orders made – well over a million by 2008 – family judges still do not seem able to draft an order which will be proof against misunderstanding and misinterpretation. The ‘typical’ arrangement is alternate weekends – collect from school on Friday, return to school on Monday; one Wednesday overnight on the other weeks; half of school holidays; alternating Christmas, New Year, birthdays, etc. The problem with this is that it is made up of several alternating cycles; where these cycles overlap there is room for confusion, particularly with a party determined to be obstructive.
Contact Orders work best when they are flexible and parents are prepared for a bit of give and take. Sometimes, however, it is necessary for them to be written rigidly if you are not to be taken advantage of and there is to be no room for dispute, confusion or discussion. The following is a possible solution which has worked in many situations; the handover times can be changed, but should be appropriate to the age of the child:
IN THE (Give the name of the Court) COURT NO. OF MATTERS: (Put your case number here)
IN THE MATTER OF (Put the full name of your child as it appears on the birth certificate here) Born (Put your child’s date of birth here)
(If you are the applicant, put your full name here)
(If your children’s other parent is the respondent, put her full name here)
(Put the name of your child here if he or she is a party to the case)
[Through their NYAS or CAFCASS Guardian or Independent Solicitor]
O R D E R
BEFORE the Honourable (give the judge’s name) sitting in chambers at (give the court’s name and its address) on (put the date of the hearing here).
EITHER, if the parties are representing themselves
UPON HEARING the Applicant (put the name of the applicant here – probably yourself), in Person and the 1st Respondent, (put the name of the 1st Respondent here – probably your ex), in Person and Counsel for the 2nd Respondent Child by her Guardian (put the name of your child’s guardian here if appropriate).
ALTERNATIVELY, if the parties are represented
UPON HEARING (Give the name of the applicant’s solicitor), for the Applicant, and (Give the name of the 1st respondent’s solicitor), for the 1st Respondent, and Counsel for the 2nd Respondent Child by her Guardian (put the name of your child’s guardian here if appropriate).
IT IS ORDERED [BY CONSENT( if the order is a Consent Order)] THAT
1. STAYING CONTACT IN 2013, 2014 & 2015
The 1st Respondent, (put the name of the 1st respondent here), shall make the child (put the name of your child here), available for Contact with the Applicant, (put the name of the applicant here), for the contact periods and with the collection/return arrangements as set out in Clauses 2 – 8 following.
2. WEEKEND CONTACT
Weekend staying contact to continue in the pattern established for (give the period of time for which contact has been running), that is to say, alternate weekends, starting on Friday, (give the date and month on which contact is to commence), from 6:00pm on the Friday, through to 4:00pm on the Sunday.
Where the alternate weekends fall within school holiday contact, then the weekends will be absorbed into that extended staying contact and no additional weekends will be given. Thus if an extended period of staying contact ends on a Saturday, and the normal pattern of alternate weekends means that a contact weekend falls the following weekend then contact will continue in that manner.
(1) Collection: On the Friday, (give the relevant adult’s name) will collect (give your child’s name) from (give the relevant adult’s name) at (give the venue for collection) at 6:00pm.
(2) Return: On the Sunday (give the relevant adult’s name) will return (give your child’s name) to (give the venue for collection) at 4:00pm for collection by (give the relevant adult’s name).
3. CHRISTMAS CONTACT
Christmas holiday staying contact to continue in the pattern established for (give the period of time for which Christmas contact has been running), that is to say contact takes place either for the 1st or 2nd week of the 2-week school holiday so that Christmas Day is spent in alternate years with the Father and Mother respectively. Christmas Day 2011 is to be spent with the Mother/Father (delete as applicable).
(1) Collection: On a date to be confirmed by both parties no later than 2 months prior to the end of the School Christmas Term (give the relevant adult’s name) will collect (give your child’s name) from (give the relevant adult’s name) at (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon.
(2) Return: On a date to be confirmed by both parties no later than 2 months prior to end of the School Christmas Term (give the relevant adult’s name) will return (give your child’s name) to (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon for collection by (give the relevant adult’s name).
4. EASTER CONTACT
Easter holiday staying contact to continue in the pattern established for (give the period of time for which Easter contact has been running), that is to say contact takes place for the 1st week of the 2-week School Easter holiday, Saturday to Saturday.
(1) Collection: On the first Saturday of the School Easter Holidays, (give the relevant adult’s name) will collect (give your child’s name) from (give the relevant adult’s name) at (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon.
(2) Return: On the second Saturday of the School Easter Holidays (give the relevant adult’s name) will return (give your child’s name) to (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon for collection by (give the relevant adult’s name).
5. SUMMER HOLIDAY CONTACT
Summer holiday staying contact to continue in the pattern established for (give the period of time for which Easter contact has been running), that is to say contact takes place for not less than 3 weeks during the first half of the approximately 6-week school Summer Holiday, starting on the first available Saturday, running Saturday to Saturday.
(1) Collection: On the first Saturday of the School Summer Holidays, (give the relevant adult’s name) will collect (give your child’s name) from (give the relevant adult’s name) at (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon.
(2) Return: On the fourth Saturday of the School Summer Holidays, after 3 weeks of staying contact, (give the relevant adult’s name) will return (give your child’s name) to (give the venue for collection) at 12 noon for collection by (give the relevant adult’s name).
5. TELEPHONE CONTACT
The First Respondent (give the 1st respondent’s name) is to encourage the child (give your child’s name) to telephone the Applicant Father/Mother (give the applicant’s name) twice a week.
6. FUTURE CONTACT
The First Respondent (give the 1st respondent’s name) is to make the child (give your child’s name) available for contact with the Applicant (give the applicant’s name) for future contact, as set out above and for any other contact as arranged between the parties.
(1) School Holiday Timetable: It is the responsibility of each parent and the child’s Guardian to establish the dates of the school holidays and prepare for the future Contact periods in accordance with the pattern of contact as set out supra.
(2) Section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989: Pursuant to section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 neither party may make further application in relation to the child without permission of the court, until (give the appropriate date here). Any such application must be made, in writing in the first instance, to (give the name of the judge).
There shall be No Order for Costs, [save that there be detailed assessment of the publicly funded costs of the 2nd Respondent Child by her Guardian – if appropriate].
DATED this (give the day of the month) day of (give the month and year).
Never be the respondent in a case; always be the applicant as respondents are invariably at a disadvantage, and are forced to react to whatever the applicant does. Note that although you may have been the respondent in the divorce proceedings, if you are making the application you are now the applicant and the other parent is the respondent.
Always apply for more than you think you will get. Even if you have contact and it is working well it can be a good idea to apply for an order just to formalise the arrangement, particularly if there have been problems with contact in the past.
Do not delay. The longer you delay, the longer you allow a new status quo to be established which you will then find difficult to overturn. Parents sometimes dither for months before making their first application. This is terribly destructive to a case, and very challenging to recover from. As soon as there is any threat at all to your contact you must make an application and thereafter remain proactive.
Never give your ex any indication that you are about to make an application or what your strategy is likely to be. This is an adversarial system – the winner takes all and the loser can lose everything. When you make an application it must be served on the other party; ensure that you only do this at the last minute allowed; do not give them any more time than necessary to prepare their response.
Have no truck with those who repeat the mantra that it isn’t the quantity of contact that matters but the quality, there is no quality without quantity. If you only get a couple of hours a fortnight it is quite impossible to enjoy contact of any quality, while you count your minutes ticking away.
Application forms for family court orders are available from your local court or as PDFs from the Ministry of Justice website.
Completion of forms in children’s proceedings is determined by Part 5 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.
· is used only to start an application for an order under Section 8; if you want an additional order or directions in existing proceedings you should use Form C2 use C2 if you need the Court’s consent to start proceedings (for example, if you are a sibling or grandparent).
· Some other Children Act applications, such as for Parental Responsibility, are still made using the older Form C1. If you are unsure which form to use, ask at the Court.
· C100 replaces the old C1 form and introduces some new fields such as parties’ places of birth and previous surnames. The purpose of this is to make identification of parties easier and to rule out ‘false positives’ in order to reduce delay. It is therefore important to fill in all fields accurately or you will find the court process even slower.
· Form C78 is used to make an application to have a Warning Notice attached to a Contact Order;
· Form C79 is used:
Ø if you wish to apply for an Enforcement Order;
Ø if you wish to amend or revoke an existing Enforcement Order;
Ø if the Enforcement Order has been breached and you want the Court to take action; or
Ø if you wish to apply for compensation for financial loss.
It can also be used by the person to whom the Enforcement Order applies:
v if they want the hours in the order to be reduced;
v if they want the time allowed for the work requirement to be extended.
If you believe your child to be at risk of violence, abuse or abduction, you will also need to complete Form C1A.
The Court will provide you with guidance booklets CB1, Children and the Family Courts, CB2, Filling in the Forms and CB3, Serving the forms, and C1A Notes; these are also all available as PDFs from the website. Once you have filled out the forms take or post them to the Court together with payment.
You cannot save a PDF which you have started filling out, so we suggest you write all your answers into a Word document and then, when you are ready, copy and paste into the online PDF and print the necessary number of copies.