Maintaining a relationship with children following divorce or separation

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Many separating parents need to make arrangements to ensure they both spend time with their children post separation.  Unless there are any welfare concerns the court always encourages parents to enable their children to maintain as much of a relationship as is possible with both of them.  A recent case has, however, changed the way 'contact' should be interpreted.  

Contact can be facilitated by direct face to face time with each parent, which can include overnight stays as and when appropriate.  Other methods can be considered, such as telephone calls, birthday and Christmas cards, FaceTime and Skype.  

Sometimes it might be necessary to limit the contact to forms of indirect contact, such as letters, cards and telephone calls.  Sometimes it might be necessary for a third party to be present to supervise the contact visits to ensure the safety of the children.  This can be facilitated at a contact centre or by a friend or family member, as appropriate.  

Traditionally, only time when the parent and children are physically present has been regarded as direct contact.  There has been a recent High Court case called FY v MY and others [2016] EWFC 16, however, which decided differently.  Justice Russell ruled that FaceTime and Skype should be regarded as direct contact.  This was in the context of the previous physical abuse the father had subjected the children to, and the emotional abuse he had subjected them to via FaceTime and Skype since the direct physical contact had stopped.  The judge therefore felt that to ensure there was no more abuse the contact should either be indirect, by way of telephone calls, or the FaceTime and Skype contact needed to be supervised.  

Each case of course needs to be looked at in its own particular context and with its particular facts.  The case reminds us of the continuing need to review how new technology can provide ways to facilitate ongoing relationships between children and both their parents.

If you have any queries about how to arrange contact with your children post separation, please contact Sarah French or another member of the Blake Morgan family team.