Do I have to go to court to gain access to my children?


People after a break up often believe that to gain access to their children they have to go to court however, this is not true. Most of the time, you and your ex- partner will want what is best for your child or children, making access easy for both of you. Court should be seen as a last resort and not the first step in a battle to fight for your children like they are possessions.

Mediation for child access

How Can I Gain Access Without Going to Court?

There are options available to you as a parent that will prevent you from going to court. Also, in the long run if you do have to go to court, they will strengthen your case by letting the judge know that you explored all of your options. If you and your ex can work together for the best interests of your child, it will be much better for all of you in the future.

The most favoured approach to gaining access to your child without dragging the process through court is mediation. Even if you have applied for a contact order, you will be required to attend mediation by the court first to see if the issue can be resolved without their help.

If this is the case, you will be assessed to see if you are eligible for legal aid before the process begins.

Am I Suitable for Mediation?

There are a number of questions your mediator will ask you to make sure you are suitable for the mediation process. These include asking you if you had been a victim of:

  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Violence

If any of these apply then you may not be suitable for mediation.

Will Both of Us Be At The First Meeting?

During this first meeting with your mediator, you can either choose for you and your ex- partner to be together or you can have this meeting separately. Some people choose to do this by themselves just so they can find their feet and have a chance to explain their feelings. It will also give you a chance to voice any concerns you have. However, when your mediator is asking you about any harassment or violence, this will be done by one to one to ensure your safety and the safety of your child.

After the first meeting, if you both decide to continue, the mediator will arrange for joint meetings. They will help you reach an agreement in writing that will be in the best interests of your child. Before committing to the agreement legally, you will be able to seek the advice of a solicitor. They will then be able to put what you have agreed in mediation into a legally binding document.

How Long Will It Take?

Mediation puts the speed of the process in your hands, not the courts, this is important to remember when determining how long it will take.

If you feel comfortable doing so, you can arrange a time scale for the mediation - you may feel this will help to focus and complete the process.

Throughout mediation, a good solicitor will be able to talk you through your options legally and advise you on any issues that may arise during the mediation. There are a number of national solicitors including Simpson Millar LLP that deal with mediation and family break ups concerning children and they should be able to give you excellent advice.

Top Tips to Take Home

  • Mediation is a way of resolving your differences without using the court – contact a solicitor to find out more
  • The time frame of the process is in your hands, this is one of the advantages of mediation
  • If you have suffered harassment, violence or intimidation in the past relationship, you may not be suitable for mediation

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