Dads’ FAQs: Contact and residence (UK)

19 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘Mother will only allow father to see child a few hours a week’

’16-year-old daughter has broken off contact; father wants help to find out why’

‘Single dad with supervision order being denied contact with his child’

‘Ex-girlfriend charging him £200 per week to see child’

‘My girlfriend is pregnant with twins. We have split up and she is now refusing me access to my babies when they are born. What rights do I have?’

‘Father has residence; child now wants to live with mother’

‘Stay-at-home dad now split from partner; both want residence of children’

‘Child has been taken away’

‘I have looked after my daughter (now aged three) on my own since her birth. Her mother has now taken her. What can I do?’

First of all, remember that it is very damaging for children when their parents go to court. Their stress levels have been measured by researchers and are as high as the stress levels of children who are being put into foster care. So avoid court if you can.


Mediation, where parents are helped to reach agreement over issues including residence, contact and child support, can be really helpful and effective – it usually results in both parents feeling more satisfied, and fathers seeing more of their children. The Legal Services Commission explains a bit more on the mediation process here or you can phone the helpline on 0845 345 4 345. The LSC can also point you in the direction of your local publicly-funded family mediation service.

National Family Mediation is the umbrella organisation for services which provide mediation service to separating and divorcing couples. Find out more on their website or call on 0300 4000 636. The Family Mediators’ Association is the membership body for family mediators. Check out their website or call 01355 244 594.

You may well find separation or divorce overwhelmingly difficult – lots of men (and women) do, and especially if you are suddenly seeing less of your children. There is surprisingly little research on the impact of separation on fathers. A small study conducted by the Fatherhood Institute and Families Need Fathers in 2012 shed some light on this subject. Read more here.

If you feel like you’re struggling, try to talk things through calmly with a trusted friend or family member – it’s important to share the stress. If you feel like things are getting you down to the point where it’s affecting your health, you may find it helpful to talk to your GP. Sometimes just talking to an interested stranger can help clear your mind and remind you that you’re a valid human being!

For practical help as you negotiate your way through separation or divorce, you may find it useful to get in touch with Families Need Fathers, whose website is here. Depending on where you are, FNF may have a local branch which can offer face-to-face support. It also offers a helpline (evenings only) – call 0300 0300 363 or email

Only when you have spoken with at least one of the organisations listed above – and have explored mediation and other methods of communicating with your child’s mother (perhaps a ‘neutral’ friend can help you both) – should you think about ‘reaching for a lawyer’.

Going down the legal route

  • FNF members may be able to point you in the direction of good solicitors; sometimes solicitors come and give free advice to local FNF branches.
  • Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association) is a membership organisation for family lawyers ‘committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes’.  You can search for members near to you through its website. Or call on 01689 820272.
  • To find a low-cost lawyer, contact Citizens’ Advice on 08444 111 444 (England) or 08444 77 20 20 (Wales) – or find your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau via the Advice Guide website.
  • The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS), provides support for families going through separation and divorce. It produces several leaflets for parents, including one on ‘Parenting plans’ for separating parents. Find out more on the CAFCASS website.

Where to meet?

The National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC) provides places where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members in a neutral environment. There’s now an excellent network of around 350 centres, with plenty of toys, games and facilities for children, as well as support – and other dads. To find out if there is a centre near you, phone NACCC on 0845 4500 280 (9.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday) or email:

If you need help or advice about parenting as a dad living apart from your child all or some of the time, check out the Dad Info website, where you will find ideas and discussion forums. Although not designed for dads, you may find Mumsnet and Netmums useful too. You could also call the Family Lives free telephone helpline 0808 800 2222 or use the website, which also has an email enquiry service and live chat.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.



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  • Michael says:

    I have pr of my 18 month old son but when I went around to pick him up from my exes her mother was looking after him and refused to let me take him despite knowing I was coming around to pick him up. Can my my exes mother do this? For no apparent reason they my ex and her mother are now telling me the grandmother is more important then me the dad and are threading me with restraining orders if I try taking him when he’s been looked after by grandmother. Am I legally aloud to take my son from his grandmother? My ex and her mother say I am not, but I have been told I can. I have never been violent or aggressive towards either.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Sorry to hear about your difficulties. It sounds like you need to try to organise a calm chat with your child’s mother, to let her know how you feel. This is not so much about a father’s rights or legal responsibilities, as about making sure that a much-loved child is able to have a continuing, positive and loving relationship with both his parents. If once you’ve talked you feel in your heart of hearts that your child’s mother is not serious about your having access, at that point you may want to think about mediation and if necessary, legal action.

  • tom says:

    I haven’t seen my son last 2 years… they’re are living in South l, am on North west.. l want to contct end see regularly my son… but l don’t know what to do. .. Please l need some advice. . Thanks

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Sorry to hear this. I’m afraid we can’t answer specific questions like this…if you’re having problems dealing with your son’s mother, you may need to think about mediation or taking legal advice. If you need advice on a specific legal issue and are a Twitter user you could post with the tag #SolicitorHour and the Law Society’s experts will answer for our expert audience, tag your post #SolicitorHour & they’ll find it. Their Find a Solicitor website is at Also worth looking at

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