LEGAL EAGLE: Court a last resort in family dispute

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I recently separated from my partner and we have a son together who lives with me. I have been trying to organise contact between my ex-partner and my son but we cannot talk without arguing.

When we do make plans for contact, my ex-partner does not always turn up on time to collect my son. I really want my son to see his dad but I am worried that the issues with contact are going to affect him.

My friends have told me to take my ex-partner to court to sort out the contact. I don’t want to go to court but I want to make an arrangement for my son’s benefit.

If you are struggling to agree contact arrangements with your ex, there are several things you can do to resolve matters.

You might want to talk to a solicitor who can advise you further on the legal rights and responsibilities you share with your ex with regards to contact.

A solicitor could help you negotiate contact arrangements with your ex-partner, but speaking to a solicitor does not mean you will have to go to court.

You might be entitled to help with paying the solicitor’s fees (known as Legal Aid).

A solicitor will be able to advise you further on your eligibility for Legal Aid and will explain what, if anything, you have to pay.

If a solicitor can’t help you reach an agreement, or you choose not to speak to a solicitor, you can try mediation.

Mediation will involve both you and your ex-partner attending sessions with a trained, impartial professional who will help you agree a schedule for contact.

Sometimes mediation can’t help you reach an agreement or your ex-partner may not be willing to attend. If this is the case, you may wish to consider making an application to the court, so that they can help in making contact arrangements.

The court would need to consider what is best for your son, and the level of contact he should be having with his dad.

A court order might specify exactly how frequently how contact should take place and how long for, or it might be more general. It will depend on how much help you need from the court.

Going to court should be a last resort for contact disputes so it is important to get help with the problem as soon as possible.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist solicitors that can advise on issues of childcare and other family matters. Call 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. For more visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk