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  • 25 Sept 2023

    Can I have contact with the child even though I am not the parent?

    The modern family can often look different that the traditional vision some might have. Many people can get involved in family life and the raising of a child including stepparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings etc. So, could any of those people have contact with the child following a separation?

    What is a child arrangement order?

    A child arrangement order is a court order made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The purpose of the order is to clarify who the child/ren live with, who they can have contact with, how often that contact is, what the plan looks like and any practicalities.

    The process

    Some families are able to agree between themselves a plan around child contact both with the other parent and their extended family. Most children are also able to maintain good relationships with their extended family and others in their lives that are not their legal parent. 

    However, this is not always the case. A separation or divorce can cause a strain between adults which can lead to disagreements and tension. This often results in the child not being able to spend as much time with extended family as they did previously or not seeing them at all. 

    This is also the case for stepparents who have raised the child, but after separation aren’t able to spend time with them. 

    If it isn’t possible for a family to agree contact with the child on their own, an application can be made for a child arrangements order.

    Who can apply for a child arrangement order?

    Certain people are able to apply for a child arrangement order without getting permission from the courts. These include:

    • The child’s parent, guardian, or special guardian
    • The child’s stepparent or any other person with parental responsibility for the child
    • Any named as a person who the child is to live with via an existing child arrangement order
    • Any party to a marriage or civil partnership to whom the child is a child of the family
    • Anyone with whom the child has lived with for 3 years or more
    • Any person who has consent of each person with parental responsibility for the child or with consent from the local authorities if the child is in local authority care

    If you do not fit into one of the categories of people listed above, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you wont be able to apply for a child arrangement order. It simply means that you have to apply for permission from the court first of all.

    What happens with applying to the court for permission to apply for a child arrangement order?

    After you have made an application to the courts for permission, the court will take some time to consider what you are looking for and why. They will consider your relationship and connection to the child and look into if there is any risk to the child that would come from granting your application to be made. There can be other factors that are relevant specific to each case, but these are the first considerations of the court. 

    Even if you are not the child’s parent, it doesn’t mean that you are automatically not allowed to have any contact with the child. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t get a court order to ensure and regulate your contact with the child.

    How can Hegarty Solicitors help?

    It’s important to remember that every individual situation is different, so seeking legal advice is advised to ensure you get the best possible outcome. 

    Our expert family law team are on hand to work with you to understand your rights for contact with the child and if necessary assist you in making an application to arrange a court order that.

    Contact our team

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