As we all know court proceedings can be very costly and in some cases there is no way of avoiding this.
However, before going to court it may just be worth your while seeing whether you can resolve the dispute without going to court. Try out my three suggestions below:
1. Write a letter to the other parent asking them to agree that you should be having contact with your child. The letter should be simple but specific. So avoid making any snide remarks and make sure that you set out the specific times you want to see your child. It may seem a little robotic but by doing it this way you are bringing some certainty into the equation. Give them a reasonable time to respond so you could end the letter by saying that you must hear from them within 14 days.
If the time limit has passed then send them a second letter. This time considering sending the letter via recorded delivery so that you can have proof the letter has been signed for and collected – or not as the case may be.
If you still get no reply you can approach a Solicitor to write a letter to the other parent. This should not be too costy but it will make the correspondence more formal. Usually a "Solicitors letter" will cause the other parent to respond. If the other parent does not respond then you will know that you are likely to have a long and complicated dispute.
The Solicitors letter would usually end with a request for a response within a specific time, alternatively, court action will be started.
2. Ask a mutual friend to help you both in discussing any obstacles which are preventing contact being agreed. Often, certain left over bitterness from the relationship can affect the future relationship of the parents. This can mean that the children suffer as a result by being forced to live between feuding adults and being alienated from the parent they are no longer live with.
Mutual friends are often best place, because they know both of you and the children, to step in and help iron out any disputes.
With this method, however, do not feel forced to use a friend who shows any sign of bias as one or the other of you is likely to feel uncomfortable with the decision reached and it is therefore less likely to last.
A mutual friend can also be an upstanding member of the community who is known to the family. For example, a religious leader, community leader, a friend with a relevant professional qualification.
Do not let these discussions drag on indefinitely. If you are not able to agree something concrete by the second meeting then this method is probably not going to work.
3. Use a professional mediator or relationship counselor
If parents are really serious about moving things forward in an acceptable way and doing what is best for their child they will know that avoiding delay and court proceedings is crucial.
So if things can not be resolved informally then the next best way is to use an external person who is specifically trained to help families dealing with the consequences of a relationship breakdown.
If you have gone to see a Solicitor before using a mediator or relationship counselor you can still ask the Solicitor to refer you to mediation. The mediator can then take over the case to help you both come to an understanding on future contact. The Solicitor can then help to formalize this understanding so as to avoid problems in the future.
So there you have it, try out these suggestions above before rushing off to court – it will be less expensive and help you get on better as parents in the future. And for the resident parent you might just get a regular willing babysitter – for free!