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ukfamilysolicitor, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 1441
Experience:  Divorce, Finances, Children, Domestic Violence, Care Proceedings
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This question is for an England & Wales family law solicitor with experience of contact orders, variations. The contact in question relates to my 2 children who reside with me and for whom I have PR. They are a daughter 14 and son nearly 17. Contact is alternate weekends and roughly half the school hols. I suggested this from the outset us meeting half way, a 76 mile round trip each journey for each of us.Where no expiration date is stated nor referred to within the order, is it implicit that the order ceases to apply on each child’s 16th birthday or can this vary between courts or if one of the children has remained in further education?The younger child wishes to vary the format and frequency of contact. In spring + summer 2014 there were issues at a time when they were both going regularly every other weekend. Nothing of a truly serious nature - basically numerous small but significant (to her) incidents which have not been good for her emotionally or psychologically. Unfortunately there was an unwillingness to acknowledge there were any issues therefore rendering them impossible to address. Instead of seeking to find a solution their dad said he would be ok if Holly didn't go to see him on the weekends where she had something else on. I reluctantly agreed because I felt that it was the best solution all round since he wouldn't acknowledge any issues, that the court might not accept her wishes (not least since she was only 11 at the time) or that the issues weren’t ‘serious enough’ to interest the court and she’d be forced to revert to the order as set out, to her detriment. Increasingly she's been saying she doesn't want to go for the direct school holiday contact either and I've had to force her to go for about the last 6-8 months. When it came time to get her out the car this holiday she completely broke down saying she didn’t want to go. This was very last minute but she was thankfully allowed to not go.If contact orders expire on children’s 16th birthdays, then I have been taking my son for contact for about 9 months after the order no long applied to him (often when he was the only one going). I fear that no longer transporting my son to contact as well as requesting a new arrangement for my daughter will tip their dad over and we'll all end up back in court again. If that did happen would the court (based on her age now) actually agree to support her wishes and feelings or could they enforce the order as it stands for another 2 yrs, or, worse still, could I be prosecuted (or him) for having agreed to my ex husband’s ‘solution’ (even though it was by mutual agreement)? Would the court hear the case if no efforts to reconcile the contact arrangements had been made via mediation first?
HelloWelcome to Just AnswerI am a Solicitor and will assist you.These types of orders do cease when a child reaches 16 unless the court has specified it will be 18.The court will not entertain any application made by the father now in respect of your son unless your son is considered to be a special needs child.In respect of your daughter - whilst she is under 16 - she is also of an age whereby a court would give very high regard to her wishes and feelings about wanting to spend time with her father. Your daughter should not be so worked up that she is crying. If she is saying she does not want to go and you have tried to encourage her - then do not force your daughter - a court will certainly not force her to go.If the father wanted to apply to court - then he could in respect of your daughter only. Realistically the court will as ascertain your daughters wishes and feelings and order in line with those.As long as you have previously tried to encourage - then you can rest assured that there will be no issues for you at all.Mediation is worth attempting - the father would have to do this before he could apply to court anyway. There are specialist family mediators including children specialists - they could also speak to your daughter and pass her wishes on to her father.Please do not hesitate to ask if I can clarify anything for you.Kind RegardsCarolinePlease kindly remember to star rate our service so that we receive credit for helping you today
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you very much indeed for your answer.Looking at the possibility of a return to court, I remain concerned based on accounts I've read around the taking into account of wishes and feelings such that CAFCASS have recorded the child's clear views then recommended more contact than the child said they wanted, or the court hasn't followed the premise that 'contact is for the child not the parent' but has actually followed a principal more along the lines of 'this child WILL have contact, contact is king'. What would be the likelihood be that the worst outcome possible could happen, that she is forced to revert to the existing terms of the contact order because her feelings actually aren't taken into full enough account (and not least since her father presents a great impression of a doting father yet only recently at the age of 14 has he actually created a robust age appropriate holiday timetable. I guess I would need to know how confident you genuinely are that all of those things would happen because my concern is the absence of any overt welfare issues, and just won't carry enough weight.What about the contempt of court matter - I'm not sure I have enough information about that and how it would be viewed in court when I all I could say was 1. I tried to sort the problems out but couldn't 2. I've kept her coming to see you as long as possibly could 3. she's tried hard to keep coming to see you as much as she can, but the upshot is that she just doesn't want to keep coming down. I wouldn't particularly want to be prosecuted for that offence and am unclear how 'culpable' I am as the person who accepted the suggestion albeit it wasn't my first choice and I didn't request it as a solution.Is it an absolutely finite requirement that mitigation MUST take place before asking for the variation or discharge of a contact order? Is that 100% or could, if the non resident parent said "She's just a child and the only reason she doesn't want to see me is because she wants to spend time with her friends, we're all really lovely to her, no one's hurting her or mistreating her so she has to come, how can she/they/you possibly stop me from seeing her"?
Hello I wouldn't worry at all. At 14, even if the court did make an order that wasn't in line with your daughters wishes and feelings (which is highly unlikely) your daughter can effectively 'vote with her feet' and decide just not to go if she doesn't want too. There would be no sanction for you at all - you would only be expected to actively promote - but you simply cannot force her. To force her is akin to emotional harm. You will not be held in contempt - this simply will not happen. I am more than 5 years qualified and my majority workload is children matters so I am very confident in my advice to you. It is absolute that the father cannot apply to court unless he attempts mediation first. The court will reject his application otherwise. You can be confident that you are breaking no rules by listening to the wishes of your 14 year old daughter. I hope this helps reassure you. Please do not hesitate to ask if I can help you further. kind Regards ***** ***** feedback is gratefully received
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