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Family Law

Access to children and anxiety

Sad father holding teddy bear

Friday, May 19, 2023

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Jonathan Fuller, Family Law Solicitor at Samuel Phillips Law offers guidance to father’s seeking to gain access to their children following relationship breakdown.

Most father’s going through relationship breakdown and no longer being able to spend time with their children every day find the situation very stressful which can lead to anxiety and depression.

Am I alone?

It is sadly a growing trend that relationship breakdown and worries about gaining access to children are a common feature for father’s experiencing a decline in their mental health.

Research conducted by ‘DadPad’ in 2020 found that;

  • 1 in 10 dads suffer from mental health issues – that’s 75,000 dads each year in the UK.
  • 33% of young fathers wanted/requested support for their mental health
  • 20% of new dads felt completely isolated during their first year of fatherhood
  • Up to 38% of new dads are worried about their mental health
  • There are at least 600,000 male suicides each year.

Are my children better off without me in their lives?

No. Fathers are very important to a children’s well-being and should be permitted to play an active role in their children’s lives.  Sensitive, supportive, involved fathers contribute to children’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social adjustment.

Fathers also influence children’s well-being in conjunction with mothers and other caregivers, making it important to understand father-child relationships as part of entire family systems.

It is very important that children have a loving relationship with both parents and that they are afforded the chance to spend adequate time with both parents, and this is recognised by the Family Court.

How can I gain access to my children?

Separated parents are now required to attend mediation in an attempt to resolve issues around child contact arrangements in the first instance.  It is reported that over 70% of family law mediation cases are successful in assisting parents to reach an amicable agreement over child contact arrangements.

However, in the event you find yourself in the situation where mediation has proved unsuccessful, you will be provided with a MIAM certificate which you can then use to apply for a Child Arrangements Order at Court.  The Court Fee to issue an application for a Child Arrangements Order is £232.  Once the Court has received this application, it will list a short Directions Hearing also known as a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA).

Prior to this hearing, CAFCASS, who are an independent Court advisory body, will undertake safeguarding checks in respect of both parents and will prepare a safeguarding letter to the court.  This letter will include CAFCASS’s recommendations on what level of child contact would suitable in the case.

If contact arrangements cannot be agreed at a FHDRA, the matter will proceed to a second court hearing called a Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA).

If contact arrangements are still not be agreed at this Court Hearing the matter will need to proceed to a Final Hearing, where a final decision will be made by a Judge.

Will the Court find in favour?

There is a general stigma that father’s feel that the Family Court always finds in favour of the mother.  This is not correct.

As long as there are no specific safeguarding issues in respect of a father, the Family Court generally take the view that both parents should play an active role in children’s lives and should be afforded equal opportunities to spend time with their children over term time, school holidays and special holidays such as birthday’s, Christmas and Father’s/Mother’s Day.

Family Courts now widely implore parents to work towards co-parenting their children and reaching agreements over contact arrangements out of court via the assistance of their solicitors through negotiation.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to any of the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact the Family Team at Samuel Phillips Law on 0191 232 8451 or email familydepartment@samuelphililps.co.uk.

 

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