17 September 2013
How separated parents can deal with child contact and residency disputes
People may well have seen reports this week of a case in the Court of Appeal dealing with a Mother’s refusal to allow contact between her son and his father.
The reasons were in case the Father fed him meat in breach of his strict vegetarian diet, safety concerns, such as whether the child was made to wear a seatbelt when travelling, and concerns that he referred to the 5 year old boy by a nickname rather than his given name.
It may surprise some people that such matters could reach the Court of Appeal, yet it is often that these day to day parenting issues cause the biggest sticking points. Many parents have strong views on what is in the best interests of their Children and how their safety is best protected. When their views differ, it often impacts on the arrangements for contact, as each parent worries that the other will impose their own views on the child if they are allowed to see them.
Where 2 parents share parental responsibility for a child, fundamental matters must be agreed. However general day to day issues can be dealt with by each parent in isolation. The important issues will be considered as having a direct impact upon a child’s wellbeing and so can justify withholding contact. Many other issues which effectively equate to no more than a difference in parenting style will not be justified and any parent using such concerns as a reason for withholding contact can face harsh criticism and sanctions.
In this particular case, it is reported that the senior judges warned the Mother in question that if she did not make her son available for contact, notwithstanding her concerns, the Court would be willing to consider changing residence to the Father. This is a sanction which the courts are increasingly minded to use where contact is, in the eyes of the judge, being unreasonably withheld. Any parent seeking to stop contact therefore needs to be wary of doing so without first seeking legal advice, given the potential consequences.
By Family Law Solicitor Cara Nuttall