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What is contact?

What is contact?

An explanation of contact in light of the new Child Arrangements Orders.

Note that all existing Contact Orders became Child Arrangements Orders in April 2014.

"Contact" was a term introduced in 1989 to replace the old concept of “access” and refered to any communication or meeting between a child and his or her family.

This could include contact by letter, phone or email, referred to as “indirect contact”, or actual visits and overnight stays, referred to as “direct contact”.

The family court’s approach to contact is that it is usually in the best interests of a child to maintain contact with both parents.

Lady Justice Macur set out the Court’s general approach in Re M (a child) [2015] EWCA Civ 1296,

[22] …The starting point should be that the welfare of the child requires ongoing and meaningful contact with both parents.  This principle should only be displaced for compelling reasons on the clearest of evidence and only then when all reasonable avenues of promoting safe contact, both physically and emotionally for the child, have been considered and rejected.

McFarlane LJ expressed a similar view in Re A (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 910,

[43] …It is and should be a given that it will normally be in the best interests of a child to grow up having a full, real and entirely ordinary relationship with each of his or her parents, notwithstanding the fact that they have separated and that there may be difficulties between the two of them as adults.

And Mr Justice Hedley affirmed in Re E (A Child) [2011] EWHC 3521,

Every piece of research that has ever been undertaken makes it clear that children with separated parents do best when they have a relationship with both their parents, and therefore, because there is a unanimous voice, the court approaches with the gravest caution any attempt to terminate or to abandon that relationship.

In 2014 Contact Orders were replaced by Child Arrangement Orders, but the concept of contact has been retained.

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