Q: After getting divorced last year I got a new place to live and have had my children to stay every weekend since then. My ex-wife has been fine about the arrangement up until a few weeks ago when my new partner moved in with me. Now my ex-wife has taken objection is saying she will not let me see our children because she doesn't like my new partner. What should I do?
A: If your ex-wife is refusing to give you access to your children you should go and see a family law specialist who will write to her on your behalf and try to reach an agreement. If this does not achieve a result your lawyer will make a referral to a local family mediator. The object of this exercise is to help you and your ex-wife to reach a mutually acceptable agreement by negotiation, through the mediator.
If your ex-wife refuses to attend the mediation appointment - which is voluntary, or the mediation process breaks down, the next step would be to apply to the Court for a Contact Order which will set out the arrangements for when you and your children can see each other. As Court proceedings are lengthy, it is however preferable for separating spouses to reach an agreement without the Court's intervention in cases involving children.
Before instructing your lawyer to make an application to the Court you would either need to secure a public funding certificate (legal aid) from the Legal Services Commission, or alternatively provide your lawyer with money on account of costs. As the rules for obtaining public funding are changing from April 2013, putting many parents outside the criteria for eligibility, you should seek legal advice about the access problems you are experiencing as early as possible.