Q: In 2012 I obtained a Court Order for my children to spend time with me every weekend but my former partner has now stopped me seeing them. I have heard a lot in the press recently about mediation. Could this help me to get access to my children restored?
A: If you wanted to make a fresh application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order you would be required to try Mediation first, anyway. As well as being considered a far less costly and more amicable way of dealing with such matters than going to Court, Mediation enables ex-partners to sit down together with a trained Mediator to discuss the children and share their concerns and frustrations.
As you already have a Child Arrangements Order that has not been complied with, you could consider applying to the Court for an Enforcement Order. An Enforcement Order can be applied for by any interested parties detailed in the Child Arrangements Order. The Court will need to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that your ex-partner has failed, without reasonable excuse, to comply with your Child Arrangement Order. It will take into account the welfare of the children and want to be satisfied that an order for compliance is necessary and also proportionate to the breach. In some instances a person who has failed to comply with an Order can be made to undertake 40 - 200 hours of unpaid work. The Court can also make an Order for a suspended work requirement.
Another option may be for you to apply for the current Order to be discharged. This may lead to a new Order being made which could change with whom your children should reside. To ensure you choose the right option you should discuss with your solicitor whether you would be better off attempting Mediation or going to Court.