Q: I haven’t seen my young daughters for almost three years because their mother became so obstructive about my seeing them after her new partner moved in. I was going to go to court and get an order so that she couldn’t prevent me seeing them, but then they stopped the legal aid and I couldn’t afford to.
I felt so low after the marriage break-up I just gave up. Now I want to build a new relationship with my lovely girls but I’m worried about what it might cost to get an order. Is there any way at all I can get financial help?
A: There may be no legal aid available to go straight to the courts but there is still a substantial pot of legal aid available for mediation. I would therefore suggest you make an appointment with a family lawyer who is qualified in mediation.
If mediation fails you can then make an application to the court for a child arrangements order. Both you and the children’s mother would have to attend the first appointment and there is usually a Court Welfare Officer available at Court who would interview you jointly to ascertain whether an agreement can be reached without taking the matter further. If an agreement is not possible the District Judge will give directions as to the future conduct of the case, but the Court will try to encourage the parties to reach an amicable agreement so that the matter can be concluded at the first hearing.
Under new legislation that came into force in October this year, both parents are now legally considered to play an equally important part in their children’s lives and guidance to the courts is to presume that, unless there is hard evidence to the contrary, a child will benefit from a relationship with both parents.