A study was published on the 25 September 2008 by the Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy to analyse the outcome of contact applications made to the Court. It comes in the wake of publicity by father’s rights groups about the raw deal that non-resident parents get when contact is opposed by the parent who is the main carer for the child.
In the majority of cases where parents separate or divorce the parents are able to agree arrangements between themselves for care of and contact with their children, either directly between themselves or with the assistance of their solicitors or a mediator. However there are inevitably cases which involve an application to the Court to determine contact arrangements and other issues in relation to children.
Whilst there is no specific statute or law which says that the non-resident should have a set amount of contact with their child, the Courts start with the view that contact should take place unless there are strong reasons against it. When an application for contact is made the welfare of the child is the Court’s paramount consideration. Each case is fact specific, and the Court has regard to a checklist of matters:-
a) The wishes and feelings of the child (in light of their age and understanding)
b) The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
c) The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
d) The age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics of the child
e) Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
f) How capable each of the child’s parents (or any other relevant person) are of meeting the child’s needs
g) The range of powers available to the Court
The study, which comprised of detailed analysis of 308 cases drawn from 11 different Courts, concluded that there was no evidence that non-resident parents were treated unfavourably by the Courts. The vast majority of matters were resolved before the final hearing, either by agreement or by the applicant withdrawing. In fact, only 32 of the cases went to a final hearing.