Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Can I Avoid Losing Contact with my Daughter?

Q.Please could you point me in the right direction. My ex partner has stopped any form of contact with my 9 year old daughter because I have gone through the CSA for maintenance. I was currently paying £200 per month but found the money was not being spent on my daughter. The CSA have imformed me that I should be paying £7.00 per week, I have offered £25.00 but been told by my ex that unless its £50 then don't bother. That was 2 weeks ago. We had agreed contact through a solicitor. She will not even allow contact on the phone. And sent me a text saying see you in court.
(JM, 7 September 2008)


There are two separate issues involved here, both custody and maintenance, and together they mean you’ve been denied access to your daughter, which is a distressing situation. You don’t state how the original maintenance figure of £200 a month was reached, but since contact had been arranged through a solicitor, maintenance might have been arranged the same way.

However, if the CSA told you that you only have to pay £7 a week, it would indicate you’re making less than £200 per week – the CSA says that on incomes of that level, you pay £5 per week on the first £100 and a percentage of the second £100, which they view as a reasonable amount of your income.

What you need to do is send your ex a registered letter asking her to reinstate contact and state that you’ll have to take legal action if she doesn’t comply. By the sound of it, this won’t do the trick, but it’s a necessary legal step. After that, you need to go to court and apply for an Interim Contact Order at a Directions Hearing, which allows you contact until a full hearing on the matter. You’ll obviously need to produce evidence from the CSA regarding maintenance at the hearing, and your solicitor will have to remind the court that the full hearing would probably be more than six months away, and a lack of contact would be detrimental to your daughter.

The bad news is that your ex might demand supervised contact – but it’s better than none at all. However, if you had prior contact with your daughter, especially “staying contact” (meaning she stayed overnight with you) make sure the court is aware of that, and the circumstances in which everything changed. If previous contact arrangements had been made through the solicitor, you could ask for the enforcing of contact arrangements. Prior to the hearing inform the court and opposing solicitor that you’ll ask for interim contact and be introducing oral evidence.

That’s in the short term. Before the final hearing CAFCASS officials will interview you, your ex and your daughter regarding contact and custody, and you should produce evidence from the CSA about recommended maintenance, as well as a record of payments. If your ex continues to deny access laid down by the court, under a law coming in this autumn, she could end up being sentenced to community service.

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