Who Can Get a Court Order in Relation to Contact With a Child?
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In the Times yesterday a retired judge wrote about the difficulty he faced in gaining access to his grandchildren after the death of his son. In particular he questioned why grandparents should have to make an application for leave of the court (i.e. seek the courts permission) in order to make an application for contact with their grandchildren.
This begs the question of who can make an application in relation to a child and in what circumstances? This is a question family solicitors are often asked.
Under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 a court has the power to make a number of orders:
1. A contact order which provides for a child to visit or stay with the person named in the order
2. A residence order which settles the arrangements for where a child should live
3. A prohibited steps order which can stop a step being taken by a person with parental responsibility without the courts permission e.g. taking the child out of the country
4. A specific issue order which gives directions to determine a specific question which has arisen in relation to a child e.g. which school they should attend
In relation to residence orders or contact orders a person can apply to the court if they are a parent, guardian, special guardian, stepparent/civil partner (where the child has been treated as a child of the family) or a person who has lived with the child for the last 3 years.
A person can also apply where they have the consent of someone in whose favour a residence order has been made, the consent of a local authority where the child is in their care, they are a local authority foster carer with whom the child has living for at least one year, or alternatively the consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child has been obtained.
It is also now possible since 1st September for a relative (defined as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or stepparent) to apply for a residence order if the child has lived with them for at least one year.
However, if a person does not fall within any of these categories it will be necessary for them to obtain the courts permission to apply for an order. Whilst this is not an absolute bar to having a successful application, it does provide an additional hurdle to cross. The court will need to be satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child for them to be given such leave to apply.
If you are ever unsure of whether you can make an application or are considering making an application for contact with a child you should seek the advice of family solicitors who can advise you.
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