Frequently asked questions for fathers

Fathers and contact

I would like to be more involved in my son's life but his mother is preventing this. He wants to see me. What can I do?

It is likely that this is an issue between you and your son's mother. However, if there are child protection concerns, it is possible the social worker may also be advising the mother about how often and in what circumstances you see your son. In either situation, it is best to try and negotiate.

If it is your son's mother is objecting to you seeing him:

It may be a good idea to suggest you both go to see a family mediator, The mediator is an independent person skilled in helping parents in dispute to find solutions. They will not take sides but will keep the discussion focused on what will best meet the child's future needs. As part of the mediation process, the mediator can talk to older children to find out what they think, and this can inform the discussions. You cannot make your son's mother go to mediation, but given that it can be very helpful, it's worth suggesting it to her. Depending on your income, you may be entitled to public funding to cover the costs of mediation. Read more on how to find a family mediator.

If you can't reach an agreement about contact, then you may need to apply to court for a contact order (under Section 8 Children Act 1989) without further delay so that there is not too long a gap since you last saw your son. You can obtain initial advice about applying for a contact order from Family Rights Group advice service or you can contact a solicitor or the court office.

If it is the social worker who is objecting to you seeing your son, it is important that you understand why. You may want to write to the social worker explaining that you want to see your son more often and asking for a written explanation about:

  • why s/he thinks that more contact with you is not in your son's best interests;
  • what you can do to enable more contact to take place and in what circumstances;
  • whether anyone in your family or an outside agency can help with your arrangements.

Even if there is no contact order from the court, the social worker may still be advising the mother about what contact to allow you.

If agreement cannot be reached about the arrangements, then you can apply to court for a section 8 contact order described above. However, the situation is complicated if the social workers thinks that contact or lack of it, puts the child at risk of significant harm, including emotional harm (for further information on child protection read here).

For further advice contact Family Rights Group's advice service.

I have recently split up from my girlfriend and no longer see her children, to whom I was like a father. Can I see them?

Although you would not be considered in law to be a 'parent' under the Children Act 1989, you may have had a significant relationship with the children and maintaining that relationship may be important for their future wellbeing.

In order to see the children, the steps you need to take are broadly the same as spelt out in question 1 above (i.e. negotiate, mediate if possible and failing that apply to court for a contact order). However, if you wish to apply to the court for a contact order you will probably need the court's permission (known as 'leave') before you can apply for the court order.

Advice Sheets