Divorce & Family Law Solicitor Simran Gupta comments on the impact of sparse resources across England and Wales on Child Arrangement proceedings.
If resources are scarce then the outcome of any future applications for a Child Arrangements Order might prove far more complex than if resources had been available.
Working as a Family Solicitor in and around London and Hertfordshire, I have rarely had to consider what resources are available to promote and facilitate contact in Children Act proceedings. Although Cafcass is overworked, the appointment of a Guardian to represent the children is not unusual, child contact centres are readily available although there might be a short waiting list and Child Contact Interventions are common practice where the children have shown a hesitance to spending time with one parent.
Unfortunately, the same availability of resources is not enjoyed by parents across England and Wales. Based on the National Association for Child Contact Centres search engine, it appears that across the county of Suffolk there are only two contact centres, neither of which offer supervised contact and in Cornwall there is only one contact centre.
The impact of this in Child Arrangement Matters can be devastating. The reality of the situation being that if there are no resources then how can contact between a parent and a child be promoted? Particularly in situations where there might be allegations of harm, where the children may need encouragement to spend time with a parent. Or in situations where there has been a period of separation or in cases where the children might be unduly influenced by one parent against the other parent. It cannot be acceptable to prohibit contact with one parent, where that contact is in the best interest of the children, solely because there is no one to facilitate that contact for an initial period.
For parents discussing separation and the possible relocation of the children within England and Wales, this might be something to consider before any agreements are reached. What if, what might currently be a working relationship with the other parent turns sour or if the children’s views towards spending time with one parent change following an agreed move. If resources are scarce then the outcome of any future applications for a Child Arrangements Order might prove far more complex than if resources had been available.
For practitioners like myself, the vast difference in the availability of resources across the country may come as an unwelcome realisation. It will ultimately require us to be more resourceful when making proposals for how contact might progress in the future.