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Family Law Specialist Cara Nuttall discusses Father's Day Contact
This Sunday is Father's Day, and whilst for many it will be a chance for an enjoyable day out to celebrate the Father/Child relationship, it will also undoubtedly mark a difficult weekend for some separated families.
Whether it be the issue of contact in general, or whether the Children see Dad on the actual day, Father's Day can often highlight dispute between separated parents.
The starting presumption is that following Separation, it is in a child's best interests to maintain contact with both parents, unless there are good reasons why this is not the case, for example as a result of that parent's behaviour. Where contact is established as being appropriate in any given case if there is dispute on the matter, the Court will usually endorse an arrangement whereby children are able to spend special celebrations, such as Mother's and Father's Day with the appropriate parent, unless there are good reasons why not. Sometimes this will require the usual contact schedule to be adjusted or amended to facilitate a visit on a day the Children would not usually see that parent. The courts would generally expect parents to take a common-sense approach and agree some form of alternative arrangement between themselves, but in cases where this cannot be agreed, it is usually wise for such an arrangement to be recorded in a court order which sets out the arrangements for the children.
Where it is not possible for the children to physically see the parent, modern technology brings a wide selection of options, be it email, Skype, webcams, video calls or facetime and again, these are all options a court would endorse to facilitate on-going contact between a parent and child both on special occasions and more generally. In cases where it is considered inappropriate for Children to have direct contact with a parent, alternatives can include letters and cards being sent via third parties and vetted prior to exchange.
Occasions such as Father's Day, and the significance attached to them, often raise emotions and temperature in cases where there is a dispute, but it is important to try and maintain civilised and productive discussions as heated arguments will only lead to further complications down the line. Where communication simply fails, it may be advisable to try and involve neutral third parties, be it family members, friends or professionals such as Mediators or even solicitors in discussions. Whilst a court can and will adjudicate on such matters if required, legal proceedings should always be a matter of last resort.