What is reasonable access for fathers?

What is reasonable access for fathers depends on a number of factors and is something that should be considered with great care.

Quite often following a divorce or separation, father find themselves in the unfortunate situation of not having custody of their children. In such circumstances fathers often fight for access to their children and child contact.

It is understandable for a father to want to be able to spend time with their children regardless of whether they are on good terms with the other parent. When it concerns child arrangements parents often want to keep out of the court to save stress and expense. Therefore, many child arrangements are made without having to involve the court.

Parental responsibility and what is reasonable access for fathers?

Mothers often query what reasonable access is for fathers. As a starting point you should consider that contact is a legal right for a child but the level of contact should be carefully assessed by the primary carer.

It is usually in the best interests of the child to have contact with both parents.

The law provides that father’s should have “reasonable access” to their children. However, there is no set guidelines for reasonable access for father.  Each family is unique and reasonable access for fathers depends on the individual circumstances.  

Some fathers see their children every day, while others might see them just once a month.

Parents might share responsibilities and alternate weekend contact, or some fathers may have weekend contact every week. However as weekend contact every week might not be appropriate parents can often plan amongst themselves.

What are father’s visitation rights?

A father’s visitation rights mean that a biological father of a child has the right to see the child and spend time with the child. Visitation rights are awarded to the parent who does not have custody of their child. Furthermore, it is the right of the child to have access to both parents which includes the biological father.

Father’s visitation rights therefore grant them the opportunity to spend as much time with their child as the mother. Previously the law favoured mothers who were often granted custody and favourable child contact. This is no longer the case as the gender of the parent does not dictate the rights of visitation or contact for the noncustodial parent.

The father’s visitation rights include the following:

  • The right to visit the child at a designated time,
  • The right to enjoy activities with the child
  • The right to be free from the other parent’s control during the visitation
  • The right to spend the entire allotted time with the child without any infringement.

How to assess what is reasonable access for fathers

There is no real definition of what is reasonable access for fathers. What is reasonable depends on the individual circumstances of your family. The law recognises that each case is different, and one type of contact may not suit all families. When deciding on access for fathers the primary concern and consideration should be the child. You will need to consider the age of the child, schooling arrangements for the child and work commitments of yourself and the mother. A father should try and work around the child to try and limit the disruption which maybe caused to the daily life of the child. If a child is very young with the mother being the primary carer then the father should consider whether he is a hand on parent. If not contact may need to be restricted for short durations to ensure there is no lacking in the care of the child.

Our family lawyers consider the different situations which may apply to a family and discuss the possible options available when considering child access for fathers.

What is reasonable access for fathers during term time?

What is reasonable access for fathers during term time largely depends on a number of factors such as the age of the child, where the father lives, child wishes etc. In such situations contact could be arranged to take place every other weekend with the father possibly collecting the child on Saturday morning and returning the child Sunday evening.

It may also be agreed that there should be midweek contact, perhaps one evening every other week. If the father does not live nearby, or they have work commitments that prevents face to face contact during the week, fathers may agree for midweek contact to take place by way of telephone or skype. Due to individual circumstances it can be difficult to ascertain what is reasonable contact for fathers during term time, however parents should place the interests of the children ahead of theirs and come to an agreement on what is reasonable.

What is reasonable access for fathers during holidays

In addition to any regular access for fathers, parents should endeavour to reach an agreement for the child to spend part of school holidays with the father together with agreeing on child access for Christmas and New Year contact.

Fathers and parents should appreciate that not every school holidays they will be able to have access to their children and should discuss with their former partner and discuss in advance to avoid any issues later.

What is reasonable access for fathers living abroad?

Following a divorce or separation, the father may have moved on and settled in another country. In such situations a father’s access to his child may be restricted. A father who works abroad may not be able to maintain regular weekend contact with their child. It would be reasonable for a father who lives abroad to have regular indirect contact with their child. This could be via Skype, emails, video calls and telephone calls.

A father living abroad may have limited physical access to the child which may be dependant on employment. As such a father can plan early and try and reach an agreement with the mother. The father should notify the mother of when they will be taking time off work to visit their child. Due to the expense of visiting it is ideal to plan ahead to avoid any conflicts and disappointments. Such contact with the child may need to work around the child. A father may want to ensure their annual leave mirrors the child’s school holidays. This would allow them quality time to be spend with the child.

If the mother and father are on amicable terms, then the father may also request the mother to bring the child to his country during the school holidays to facilitate contact. Again this could be quite expensive so a father would need to consider what contact would be in the interests of the child. For a father living abroad clear consideration needs to be given to the daily routine of the child. Although a father has visitation rights they should not interfere with the child’s routine or cause them any discomfort.

What if the child doesn’t want the access agreed with the father?

The law in the UK focuses on the best interests and welfare of a child. Once a child is deemed to have reached a mature age, which is usually around 12 the courts do consider the views of a child in a matter concerning them. This does not mean that the child has the power to decide whether or not they should see their father. Where a child doesn’t want access with the father, the parents should try and understand the reasons for this.

A casual conversation with the child might be sufficient to identify any concerns the child has. The reason for not wanting contact with the father may be an emotional decision due to the separation. IF the child has had previous access a child should be asked to describe what their last visitation. It could be helpful to find out if there was anything the child didn’t enjoy during the last contact which has influenced their decision.

The child’s contact with the father should be promoted by the mother. For a father it is extremely important they try and establish the reason for the child’s behaviour. A father should try and establish whether the child’s refusal for access is purely their own wish or whether this is being directly or indirectly influenced by the mother which could result in parental alienation.

What Happens if We Can’t Agree reasonable access for the father

If you are unable to amicably agree on reasonable access for the father you should consider seeking legal advice. Family lawyers can often discuss your personal circumstances and advice you on the reasonable access you can look to obtain to your child. Family lawyers can also act as mediators between you and the mother to try and reach an amicable solution.

Should this fail you may need to consider court proceedings for child contact. Our family law advisers at Kabir Family Law have helped reunite many father with their children. We could help you too by guiding and assisting you through the court process. You may also be in doubt as to what is reasonable access for the father you may want to consult our child law specialist for a free consultation to better understand the starting points.

Arrange a free consultation today

Call us now on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back.

With family lawyers in York and across the UK including London, Oxford, Newcastle and Northampton we are able to offer local face to face appointments. We can also provide consultations via skype if you are a father who is living abroad and away from your child.

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