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What happens if my child refuses to go to Contact?

View profile for Rebecca Laffan
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What Happens if my Child Refuses to go to Contact?

The paramount consideration of the court in determining arrangements for children is ‘what is in the best interests of the child?’ The court will apply, as previously explained in earlier blogs, the welfare checklist which does include taking into account the child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings.  However, the extent to which this is determinative will depend on the child’s age and understanding.

Family Courts are reluctant to allow a child’s preference to be decisive without good reason, as there is a presumption in law that spending time with both parents will be of benefit to a child. However, this is not always the case if a child is at risk of harm from one parent.

Possible consequences of not taking your child to contact

If there is no court order and contact is not taking place in the way one parent would like, they can apply to the court for a child arrangements order setting out when the child should spend time with them.   When this happens the court will ask the resident parent to explain why contact was restricted or refused, will assess the risk of harm and throughout the process determine what the arrangements will be for the child and each parent.

If there is already a court order in place for contact, refusing contact may be a breach of a court order. The parent not having contact may apply to the court for the terms of the order to be enforced. There is also a risk that if you do not facilitate contact, without genuine or reasonable excuse, you may be at risk of paying cost orders and/or in extreme circumstances, an order being made for the child to have their primary home with the other parent.

What to do if you have concerns about your child going to contact

If you have valid or genuine concerns, such as your child being placed at risk of harm when they are with the other parent, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.  You should take the front foot approach to protect yourself from allegations of parental alienation.  It may be that an arrangement or court order can be varied or amended so that refusing contact would not place you in breach or expose you to allegations.  

If you need advice concerning children and child arrangements or other matters relating to divorce and separation, please do contact Harrowells Family Law Team.