A contact order (formerly known as child access) is an order from the Court requiring the person with whom the child lives to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order, or to allow that person and the child to otherwise have contact with each other. It is not compulsory to have a contact order to provide you with access to your child. Contact can normally be agreed between the parents. However you will need to apply for a contact order if the person with whom the child lives is refusing or is being awkward about facilitating the contact between you and your child.
How to get a contact order
You may need to seek advice from a specialist family lawyer who will advise you of your rights to apply to the court. For example, grandparents do not currently have automatic rights to apply to the court and will need to seek leave of the court.
Your lawyer can prepare the application to the court on your behalf and arrange for this to be issued and served upon the other party before arranging representation at the first court hearing. This is what we call stage one. Often matters will be agreed and concluded at the first hearing.
If not, there will be further stages to be followed which can include filing of evidence in the form of statements and/or the preparation of a report by the court family officer (known as CAFCASS) who will make recommendations to the court to assist the court in making a decision. This is called stage two and would include at least one further court hearing.
The third and final stage would be the final hearing at which time the court will consider all evidence before making a final decision.
How much does it cost to apply for a contact order?
The application can be quite involved and in stage one will include the following;
- Preparation of the application to include a short statement relating to the issues in dispute;
- Preparing any supplemental application if there is any alleged risk of harm to the child where they are currently living;
- drafting all the papers for your approval and then lodging them with the Court for issue. It is usual for the application to be lodged in the Court that is nearest to where the child is living;
- arranging for service of the papers on all relevant parties;
- filing the certificate of service with the court;
- advice of the date for the Court hearing and arranging legal representation for you.
Woolley & Co can often offer a fixed fee (which ranges from £750 - £1,000 + VAT depending on individual circumstances). There is also a statutory court fee of £215. The fixed fee generally excludes the cost of legal representation at the First Hearing. This will likely be in the region of £300 - £600 depending on where the proceedings are being heard, the level of complexity in the case and what level of expertise is required. Your lawyer can agree with you a fixed fee for the first hearing once these details are known.
Happily, a large number of cases are resolved at the first hearing. However, if this is not possible and your case proceeds beyond the first hearing, then the further work and cost of the additional stages will be discussed with you and agreed beforehand.