What are my rights if the other parent stops me from seeing my child?

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Louise Kelly Family Law Solicitor & Amara McCalla Paralegal in Child Law explain the parental responsibility that both mother and father have when it comes to children and visitation rights.

What does the law say about Parental Responsibility?

  • The presumption is in the best interests of children to spend time with both parents if it is safe to do so and does not place your children at risk of harm.
  • Parental responsibility (PR) gives all parents with PR legal rights and responsibilities, but does not automatically include a ‘right to contact’.
  • PR is defined in the Children Act 1989 as meaning “all the rights, duties powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and its property”.
  • The law is entirely centered on your child’s welfare and decisions to allow you to spend time with them. Which is determined based on whether that is in your child’s best interests and is safe for them.
  • If there are no concerns that your child would be at risk spending time with you. Then the court actively encourages a relationship between the child and both parents. In many cases, unless it can be proved that you pose a risk of harm to your child (which could be physical, sexual, emotional, or domestic abuse) the court will usually make an order allowing you to spend time with your child.

If the court, having seen or heard the evidence, forms the view that you pose any form of risk to your child they may not allow you to spend time with your child on your own. Supposing that contact can be supported or supervised by a safe person then the court may allow you to spend time with your child with a safe third party present too.

If face-to-face contact is not considered to be safe or in the best interests of your child. The court will consider allowing you to have indirect contact with your child. This can be in the form of letters, cards, and presents.

What parental responsibility do I have as a mother?

A mother automatically has parental responsibility for their child as soon as they are born. PR means you have the right to make decisions on behalf of your child. Such decisions include where your child will live, schooling, and medical care.

Mothers also have, an automatic right to make an application to the court. If they are being stopped from seeing their child.

Whilst it is often more common for children to live primarily with their mum it is not automatic that this will be the case. It cannot always be assumed this is in the best interest of the children or will be the end result in your case.

What parental responsibility do I have as a father?

Parental Responsibility for a father is not always automatic.

When a father is married to the child’s mother when the child is born. The father automatically has parental responsibility for the child. This means both parents have equal rights in relation to the child and should make important decisions together. If the parents marry after the child is born and the father does not already have PR the father will get PR at that point.

If a father is not married but is registered on the birth certificate, and the child was born after 1st December 2003, he will have parental responsibility. In the case that an unmarried father is not on the birth certificate he will not have PR.

An unmarried father can get PR by agreeing with the mother and signing a parental responsibility agreement. As an alternative, he can make an application to the court which can give him PR.

If a father does not have PR he will not have the same rights as the mother. Therefore the mother will not have to speak to him about important matters relating to the child.

Can I be denied access to my children?

Neither parent has the unilateral right to restrict the other parent from seeing the child. Unless there are concerns about the child’s safety. If there is a possibility the child is at risk of harm the parent can exercise their parental responsibility. Stopping the other parent from seeing the child for the child’s safety and well-being.

In order for another parent to restrict the other parent from access, they must be able to prove to the court there is a risk to the welfare of the child. In these circumstances the parent may restrict access or decide on:

  1. When you can see the child
  2. How you can see them (for example direct contact or supervised contact)
  3. Whether you can see the child at all
  4. How long you can see the child for

Parents may be able to restrict access from the other parent. If there are concerns regarding, abuse, drugs, alcohol, or criminal behaviour.

It is important for parents to remember that a child has a right to spend time with both parents. As long as it is safe parents whose children live with them should encourage and promote that relationship.

The court also has the power to restrict a parent’s PR if it is considered necessary to protect a child.

How can a Solicitor help with access to my Children?

If the parents are unable to come to an agreement, they should seek help from a mediator or a solicitor. Legal representation is frequently used to reach an agreement about what time a child should spend with each parent.

  • If an amicable agreement cannot be reached. Either parent can make an application to the court for a child arrangements order.
  • A solicitor will try to help you reach an agreement with the other parent. Regarding what time your child should spend with you and the other parent.
  • Another option is to invite the other parent to try mediation. In hopes to try to help you reach an agreement, you are both happy with it.
  • If you are unable to reach an agreement you can ask the court to decide by making an application to them.
  • The court will be helped by CAFCASS – a court advisory body – to make a decision that is best for your child.

If you are a concerned parent or want to gain a better understanding of what rights you have as a parent to see your child or would like WSP to help you. Apply for a Child Arrangements Order through the court please contact us today. To arrange an initial consultation with one of our family lawyers in Gloucester, Stroud or Dursley. You can use the contact form found here, or on this page and someone can call you back. Alternatively, you can call us on 01453 847200

Parental responsibility if the other parent stops you from seeing you child.


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