Settling how the other parent spends time with your child

You have options:

  • do nothing because you’re happy with the current situation
  • make your own arrangements with the other parent
  • have mediation to reach an agreement
  • ask the courts to decide what the arrangements should be

If you’re worried about your or your children's safety, contact with the other parent may not be appropriate, including through mediation. The courts understand this when settling arrangements about your child.

They may limit or stop the other parent having contact with your child if they believe it may put you or your child at risk of harm.

You should get legal advice before coming to any private arrangements with an abusive parent.

Doing nothing

If you have parental responsibility and you’re safe and happy with the current arrangements, there’s no immediate need for you to do anything.

The other parent may ask you to attend mediation or ask the court to change the situation if they’re unhappy with it. You don’t have to attend mediation if you can show you’ve experienced domestic abuse.

Agreeing child arrangements with the other parent

If this is a safe and realistic option, you may be able to work things out between yourselves, or through a trusted friend or relative.

If you do come to an agreement, you could set it out in a Parenting Plan. The plan shows what’s expected of everyone, and is useful if you ever need to go to court or mediation about a disagreement in the future.

You can also give it legal force, by asking the courts to make it a consent order.


If you need help reaching an agreement and it's safe to be in contact with the other parent, you could use a mediator.

A mediator doesn’t take sides and isn’t there to help you get back together. Instead, they help you go through the things you can’t agree on to find common ground to go forward.

You don’t have to see the other parent in person when in mediation. The mediator can act as a go-between. This is sometimes called shuttle mediation.

You won’t be forced to agree to anything. And you can also make whatever you agree legally binding in a consent order if that’s helpful to you.

You usually have to pay for mediation, but generally it’s cheaper than going to court and you may be able to get legal aid to help.

Asking the courts to make a decision about your child

If you can’t safely reach an agreement with the other parent and you have to settle child arrangements with them, you may need to ask the family court to help.

The court can decide who the child lives with and what contact the other parent has. It will aim to put the interests, safety and welfare of your child first.

Its decision will be set out in a court order – called a child arrangements order – which is legally binding on both parents.

Judges are aware that some abusers take advantage of their children and use child contact to keep a hold over the other parent.

The court can also give you and your child some protection from an abusive parent through this and other court orders that control what the other parent can do.

It's best to get help from a legal expert or solicitor before you apply to the court. You may also be able to get legal aid to help pay.

Mediation before going to court

Usually, courts want to see that you’ve tried mediation with the other parent before you apply for a court order.

You're exempt from this – that is, you don’t have to have mediation or a mediation meeting (called a MIAM) – if you have a good reason, such as:

  • you’ve experienced domestic abuse
  • it’s urgent because of possible harm to you or your child
  • there’s a risk of the child being taken out of the country without your permission (child abduction)
  • there are child protection issues

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