Ex-partners and relatives - Can I still have contact with a child even though I am not the parent?

Together we are Forbes


21 August, 2023

Tara Quinn
Chartered Legal Executive

There are many people involved with raising a child, whether it's a parent, stepparent, grand-parent, aunts/uncles, siblings and more. Modern families are no longer the stereotypical modern family, and this means family law must adapt with this change.

A child arrangement order is a court order, made under section 8 Children Act 1989. The purpose of a child arrangement order is to set out who the child/ren are to live with, who they are to have contact with, how often, what this looks like, practically.

The vast majority of families can agree between themselves when a child will spend time with their other parent, and their extended family. Most children are able to maintain meaningful relationships with their extended family and others in their lives who are not their legal parent.

Unfortunately, when two people separate this causes strain between adults and can lead to the child no longer being able to spend as much time with extended family as they previously did, or this being stopped altogether. This is also the same for stepparents who have raised a child, but after separation are no longer able to spend time with them even though they would like to.

If it is not possible to agree contact with a child, then an application can be made for a child arrangements order. Certain people are allowed to apply for child arrangements order without permission of the court. These are:

  • The child's parent, guardian, or special guardian
  • The child's stepparent or any other person who has parental responsibility for the child
  • Anyone already named as a person who the child is to live with via a child arrangement order
  • Any party to a marriage or civil partnership to whom the child is a child of the family
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived with for a period of three years
  • Any person who has consent of each person with parental responsibility for the child or consent of the local authority, if the child is in local authority care.

If you do not fall under the above criteria, that is not to say you will not be able to obtain a child arrangements order. This simply means that you must first apply for permission of the court before an application can be made.

The court will consider what application you are looking for and why, what your relationship and connection is with the child, and if there is any risk to the child by granting your application to be made. Other factors are likely to be relevant, but these are the first considerations of the court to be made.

Even though you are not a child's parent, this does not automatically mean you cannot have contact with a child or that you cannot obtain a court order regulating this contact.

We recommend that you seek legal advice to discuss your own individual circumstances.

Forbes have a fantastic team of private law children specialists with extensive experience of representing clients in children law cases for all different people. If you wish to discuss your entitlement and rights to have contact with a child, whether this is your child or not then please do get in touch using the details below.

For more information contact Tara Quinn in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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