Being in the position of not being able to spend time with your children and be a parent to them can be extremely painful. For parents who have experienced this for a long time, it can feel like a living bereavement.
If you feel that your relationship with your child may be under threat, it is important to take action as soon as possible.
In the first instance
Try to open up a formal negotiation with your child's other parent. The aim is to reach a written agreement that would form a framework for your joint parenting. To start this process, it is helpful for you to feel fully prepared so that you are on solid ground when you begin your negotiations. Our negotiation tool and parenting agreement form can help you to think about the kind of settlement you want to reach.
(If you are a father, ensure that you have Parental Responsibility before you take any action)
To begin with, you should write and explain that you would like to formally discuss your current arrangements. You should set down the things that you wish to reach agreement about (not in detail - simply the headings e.g. overnight stays).
Ask your child's other parent how they would like to begin discussing these issues. If you wish, you could send a blank copy of the negotiation tool and the model parenting agreement form explaining that you found them useful. Ask your child's other parent to respond within a reasonable time.
If you receive no response or their is a refusal to begin discussions, offer another chance explaining that you think it will be in the best interests of your child to reach a collaborative agreement.
If your child's other parent still refuse to engage, write again stating, clearly' what you feel would be a reasonable outcome (e.g. 'I would like Jack to stay overnight twice a week on a Friday and Saturday night). It's important to:
When no progress is made
If this does not result in a willingness to engage in a discussion, then your only option is to use the legal system. This does not have to be expensive, you may complete the forms yourself and the first thing you will both be required to do is consider mediation.
In helping you to navigate the court process, we cannot recommend, too highly, the 'Enforcement Package' created by The Custody Minefield. This downloadable guide will provide you with forms, checklists and advice and costs just £2.50. You can find the package here
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid, you may wish to consider contacting a McKenzie friend. Simply enter 'McKenzie friend' into your search engine:
You can also find the forms you will need to apply for a court order here: