Getting a divorce is hard enough, but not being allowed to see your child must be very difficult and upsetting. As must the other parent refusing to see the child. After all, we are supposed to be doing what is in the child's best interests. As family lawyers we see a lot of this happpening.
And not just to the parents, what about grandparents rights?
But I imagine it is so much worse in child contact cases when a Court Orders these things to happen and people don't obey them. And it has often been a grumble that Courts do not have enough power to sort this out. That said, if the ultimate enforcement is to send someone to prison, is that going to be in the child's best interests?
Within the recent Children and Adoption Act, power has been given to the Courts for the first time to order someone…
… “to take part in an activity connected with and promoting contact”
It seems that these may include taking counselling, receiving treatment, maybe attending a programme dealing with violence and so on.
I understand that there will be a process for assessing the risk of harm to a child first too–at last!
So, apart from the often unused powers they presently have if people break these Orders what else is now added?
Where someone breaks a contact Order, the Court can now:
(a) require someone to do unpaid work
(b) Order compensation to be paid to another for their loss as a result of breaking the Order
Divorce solicitors will be watching the approach of the Court, carefully.
These provisions seem sensible to me, but will they help?
Is anything other than discussion and agreement ever going to work?