Trying to reach an agreement about child contact with non-resident parents, especially when the situation may feel raw, can be difficult. However, the main focus has to be what is in the best interests of the child, rather than what you ideally want or what you feel you should be ‘entitled’ to.
When thinking about appropriate child contact arrangements, consider your own working hours and availability to enjoy good quality contact. It is not advisable to seek overnight contact with a young child if it involves collecting a child, simply to put them to bed and then wake them up the next morning to return them to school or the other parent’s care. Children need stability and routine and to disrupt that routine can be destabilising for that child’s welfare.
When thinking about holiday contact, consider your own holiday availability. Children of school age usually have around 13 weeks holiday a year. Don’t ask for half of the school holiday time unless you are able to be home with them. The purpose of the contact is for your child to spend quality time with you and being present during that time will maximise the benefits to your child of that contact.
If your contact arrangement is set out in the terms of a court order (a child arrangements order), remember that if you do not comply with the terms of the order you will be in breach. You may be faced with further legal action and costs if the other parent seeks to enforce the terms of the order or to vary it as it is not being complied with.
If both parents approach shared parenting from a practical perspective, it’s far more likely that an amicable agreement can be reached.
In my experience as a family law solicitor, many applications for enforcement or variation of court orders concerning child contact could have been avoided if the arrangement had been considered more carefully in the first instance and the practical arrangements and availability of each parent to care for their child at any given time had been considered. If the focus is switched to the child’s welfare, rather than the wishes and feelings of the parents at a time when emotions have been running high, there’s normally a better result all round.
Family Law Solicitor, Stoke on Trent