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Access Rights

By: James Bloom - Updated: 30 Jan 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Custody Visitation Children And

Visitation or contact rights (previously known as access) are agreed or assigned as part of the divorce process. The couple is encouraged to come to a mutual agreement about residency and visitation in advance when filing for divorce. If they cannot agree a court officer can be appointed to help them or recommend a decision to the court.

Agreeing with Your Partner

Separation has a powerful effect on your children. Minimising disruption to their lives will be one of your main priorities if you and your partner have decided to separate. There are various options available to you depending on your situation.

If you and your partner have difficulty agreeing on residency and visitation, one of the first steps you should make is to see a mediator. Mediators provide a confidential and impartial setting in which to discuss all issues relating to your divorce. Usually after three to five sessions the couple will have agreed the terms of their separation and can then present a united front to the court.

Mediation does not result in a legally-binding contract. When you or your partner submit the divorce petition at court you will also include a Statement of Arrangements, detailing where the children will live and how often the other parent will see them. As a matter of good practise it is recommended that the petitioner show this statement to the other parent for agreement before handing it in.

What the Law Says

When a married couple separate, both mother and father have parental responsibility. If they are unmarried, only the mother has automatic rights in respect of the child, so if they break up, she has the sole right to look after her child in a manner and place as she sees fit. Under such circumstances the father has no automatic say regarding the future life of his children.

Since 2002, an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility if he jointly registers the child’s birth with the mother. He can also get parental responsibility if both partners sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This can be done at any time and can also be ordered by a court.

Even if a father does not have parental responsibility, he is still equally responsible for the financial welfare of his children. He can be contacted by the Child Support Agency for financial support. If appropriate, deductions will be made to the amount of support the father has to pay depending on how often he sees his children.

The Court Process

One of the first things the court will do when you submit your petition is arrange a conciliation appointment to try and ensure both parents agree on the terms of residency, visitation and payments. If this does not result in agreement they will arrange for both parents to see a CAFCASS officer, from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services.

If an agreement can still not be reached, the officer will take statements from both of you and make a recommendation to the court. It is important to co-operate with the CAFCASS officer as their recommendation is very influential to the court’s decision.

At the end of the court process either or both parties will be awarded a residency order. As part of the process the father may also be given parental responsibility, or one of the parents will receive a contact order giving them visitation rights. Courts encourage the parents to reach an agreement by themselves and will only make an order if all other options have been exhausted.

How a Court Decides

In the 1989 Children’s Act, it states that when the court makes any decision about a child, the child’s welfare must be the court’s ‘paramount consideration’. There is a list of key factors they take into account when making their decision:
  • Your child’s wishes and feelings. These will be given more consideration the older the child is.
  • Your child’s physical, emotional and educational needs. This covers both love & affection and food & housing.
  • The likely effect of a change of circumstances on your child. Their greatest concern here will be causing minimum disturbance to the child.
  • Your child’s age, sex and background. This could include cultural, religious or disability needs.
  • If your child has suffered harm or is at risk of suffering harm. Recently, this also includes any domestic abuse the child has seen or heard.
  • The parents’ capabilities with regard to the child’s needs. This can include assessing whether the non-resident parent is capable of caring for the child. Or whether either parent is impaired by drink or drugs.
  • The range of powers available to the court. There are a range of orders a court can make. Sometimes they decide no order is necessary.

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Psterby - Your Question:
I am 16 years old and my parents have been arguing for many years and have recently admitted that they both want a divorce. they have been married for about 26 years. My father is disabled and would be unable to look after me to mine and the governments standards but the house has been adapted for his disabilities so he automatically has sole custody of the house. My mother has always been the one to look after me but she is also disabled, just not in the eyes of the government. I am really scared that, if they do get a divorce, I will be forced to live with my father (who I do not get along with at all) and my mother will end up homeless because we do not have enough money for her to find somewhere to live. Is there no way that I would be able to live with my mother without her being homeless or anything? Please help?

Our Response:
If you are aged-16, then you will be allowed to make the choice regarding which parent you would prefer to live with. As you are still under 18, then your mother may be able to get a council house or flat, if she cannot afford to rent or buy privately, please see Shelter link here.
DivorceResource - 28-Sep-17 @ 2:52 PM
I am 16 years old and my parents have been arguing for many years and have recently admitted that they both want a divorce. they have been married for about 26 years. My father is disabled and would be unable to look after me to mine and the governments standards but the house has been adapted for his disabilities so he automatically has sole custody of the house. My mother has always been the one to look after me but she is also disabled, just not in the eyes of the government. I am really scared that, if they do get a divorce, I will be forced to live with my father (who I do not get along with at all) and my mother will end up homeless because we do not have enough money for her to find somewhere to live. Is there no way that I would be able to live with my mother without her being homeless or anything? Please help?
Psterby - 26-Sep-17 @ 1:53 PM
Hi, I am in the process of getting divorced. For the past year and half my kids, 12 and 14, live with me. I have started my business again and work odd hours and very hard to pay the bills. My wife is well funded by her father and takes no account of the struggles to support the kids and I receive no financial support and she sees the kids once a week if that for a few hours. Now there is chance, I am advised, that I have to give her spousal support because she cannot work as effectively as myself and also wants a new flat with three rooms. The children are unlikely to stay with her for some very serious reasons that she denies. Her father is set on his vendetta and I cannot really afford the barristers and everything else. My biggest fear is that they are very clever and have timed their claims well. I am worried for the future of the kids and am disgusted that the court system does not treat both parties equally. It would appear that a father is discriminated against when he has his kids. Any one have any advice ?
Lucky Man - 4-Jun-17 @ 6:50 PM
my son divorced his wife last year and they agreed that access to their only child would be 50/50 as they lived reasonably close to each other. Their daughter, our grandchild attends a school local to my son as arranged, as this has fitted in with his ex's commute to full time work. His ex and her boyfriend have moved further away from my son and she has announced she wishes to change their daughter's school next year, thus ending the 50/50 access my son and their daughter enjoy. Our grandchild wants to remain at the local school and see our son and us, but all this will be very difficult. He has tried to reason with her but she is determined to move her anyway What advice would you offer please?
worriedgran - 3-Oct-16 @ 10:20 PM
@stepson - A lot depends upon his ex and how far she decides to go in trying to stop him. But the courts do want families to maintain contact, so if she denies him access he will need to follow the procedure laid out in When Your Ex-Partner Denies You Access link here. I hope this helps.
DivorceResource - 16-Dec-14 @ 11:21 AM
My stepson is divorcing, he has 3 children, his wife is citing drug abuse, financial difficulties, will he lose access to the children?
stepdad - 14-Dec-14 @ 2:14 PM
my brother was kicked out by his ex 1 year ago they then came to arrangements where he was staying there weekends and when she needed him then end of last august she said no more staying she then went abroad and meet some one else she now wants a divorce so she can remarry and bring the man back with her if she gets a council place and if she doesn'tshe will move abroad what should he do on her divorce petitions she has wrote lies that he beat her can some one please give us some advise
helper - 1-Apr-14 @ 2:07 PM
After a lot of outside influences and too many lies from my husband broke our marriage, he moved out 4 months ago. We have a daughter, almost three. Initially he saw her every evening but it wasn't working out so now he sees her one weekday and one day on the weekend. I work in a school part time, but I work all day on the day he has our daughter. He works full time, contract ending next Spring.He now tells me he cannot look after her on a weekday because its affecting his job. This will mean I will either lose my job, or my WTC, or my daughter will have to do a full day in childcare which I cannot afford, and he will lose a day with his daughter, as I don't want to not see her all weekend.He hasn't attended mediation, he blames me for everything that has gone wrong in his life, he is back in touch with the 'outside influences' and continues to lie to me on a regular basis. He suffers with depression, anxiety, and recently had a nervous breakdown.I don't want to go through the courts, I feel like telling him to go completely but I know this isnt fair on our daughter. I feel my daughter and I are constantly having to cope with the results of his actions but he is always the victim.Please advise - will a court push for him to have a weekday and one weekend day, or is it likely he could have her all weekend? Any alternatives?
Trying to do whats r - 19-Oct-13 @ 10:06 AM
Got divorced and the same day got kicked out the house and the locks changed.She got the house and everything.She now is refusing me access to my two children untill finances are sorted out which is the amount she is asking for.The morgage and second morgage is in her name so do I have to pay half this and we also have loans for the house in both our names but I have never seen the original documentation so no proof. Do I still have to pay half of these.The kids used to spend every other weekend with me and my partner and my ex is now saying that they cannot stay with us anymore. can she do this?Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Man needs help urgen - 4-Sep-12 @ 10:01 PM
I have been seperated from my husband for 6 years now and our children stayed with him for their best interests at the time untill I was able to look after them again. I am soon to start a divorce and I want my children with me. In the last few months I have found out that my children have to walk to school, they are nine and ten years old. There clothes are not clean and most are too small. They are not clean I found out they have approx 1-2 baths per week. I also believe that my ex is drinking again my son told me a few days ago when I had him for a holiday that he has 12 cans evry nite. This is only some of them. We have no written agreement about our children I have been told I can just go and take my chilren back is this true?
anon1 - 12-Aug-12 @ 8:10 PM
I've recently split from my wife and divorce is already been started, I live in a one bedroomed bedsit, my room does have a double bed for myself and a bed-settee, things were amicable but have taken a turn for the worse and now only talking thru solicitors, can she enforce me to have the children for a whole weekend in a bed sit, oh I've lost my job due to a couple of reasons so I'm claiming JSA, so I waiting to see how much money will get to support myself, I love and miss my children so much 2 are mine but she has one from previous relationship, but I wouldnt ake 2 and leave him behind. Can anyone help or advise.
Anon - 11-May-12 @ 3:48 PM
My ex-wife and her new husband have a 1001 excuses as to why I they will not allow me to see my children.If I make a fuss and complain, they restrict access even further.Their answer?Sue us we have very deep pockets.I haven't so my only recourse to let my children go...this society is so anti Father's it's against all human rights.And it's allowed to go on........
is this right? - 17-Nov-11 @ 12:05 PM
My ex wife refuses to allow my 10 year old son 4 days out of school to attend my wedding in st lucia he was to be my best man. Has anyone any advise on what I can do. We were married when he was born.
end of my tether - 13-Oct-11 @ 10:16 PM
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