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Indirect Contact Orders

Indirect Contact: On what basis do such orders promote the welfare of children?

We regularly hear from many dads and some mums about judges and Cafcass Family Court Advisers proposing indirect contact only with children after separation i.e. sending and receiving of letters, cards and gifts, without any parenting time at all. Often they express the view that this will consequently lead to direct contact developing. What, we ask, is the basis for such optimism? A survey we carried out suggests that there is no basis for this at all, with just one out of 154 respondents saying it led to direct contact. The May 2019 issue of legal journal Family Law Journal published an article by barrister Sarah Phillimore and Families Need Fathers exploring the issues further, sharing some of the detail of our survey results and calling for the Ministry of Justice to publish data on how often these orders are made by family courts and to commission research into their outcomes.

Our survey also found that 58% of respondents were either told by Cafcass of the family court judge that indirect contact might lead to the restoration of visitation. Cafcass were more likely to suggest this (37%) and judges slighlty less liketly to (34%) - the figures add up to more thatn 58% due to overlap where both made such comments. If you have not taken part in this survey already then feel free to add your experience for further updates of this work.

If you have experience of this, please contact your MP, ask to meet with him/her and describe to them of your experiences. Tell them about this article and ask them to make representations to the relevant minster, currently Paul Maynard MP and David Gauke MP, calling on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to start capturing separately data for cases where only inidrect contact is ordered.  This will help to distinguish between when the order is made because of safeguarding risks to the child from the parent, and when it is because previous orders for direct contact failed to take place, or even because of the assessed risk of harm to the child of ongoing proceedings (as opposed to anything the applicant parent has done wrong), or for other reasons e.g. non-compliance with previous contact orders, parental alienation, etc. Currently MoJ data only states whether there was a contact order and does not distinguish between direct contact and indirect 'letterbox' contact. Please also ask them to ask the minister to request that MoJ or Cafcass commision in-depth, independent research into the likelihood of indirect contact leading to direct contact.  Our figures suggest it is barely better than none at all and therefore a very poor basis for Cafcass and judges to base making such orders. You can find out who your MP is online. Please feel free to share any responses you receive with us at admin@fnf.org.uk.

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Families Need Fathers has been awarded the Help and Support for Separated Families Kite Mark which is a new UK government accreditation scheme for organisations offering help to separated families.

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