Many parents are having problems maintaining contact with their children. In the past, these parents have found that the options open to them are both limited and expensive to pursue.
An answer in some cases may be for the court to be put in place a Contact Activity Direction. A Contact Activity Direction is when a parent takes part in an activity which is designed to either establish, maintain or improve contact. A contact activity can only be put in place as a court order or direction.
A contact activity direction is officially defined as “a direction requiring an individual who is a party to the proceedings to take part in an activity that promotes contact with the child concerned”. The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration for the court when deciding whether to make such a direction.
A typical Contact Activity Direction may require one or both parents to attend programmes, classes or counselling sessions with the underlying objective of getting contact to work for all concerned.
The court can ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to monitor a party’s attendance at, and compliance with, a contact activity direction. The purpose of a contact activity direction therefore is to enable the court to consider and monitor an individual’s suitability for contact, prior to making a contact order.
A breach of a contact activity condition is enforceable in the same way as a breach of a contact order. However, the court must first be satisfied that the activity is appropriate and that a suitable provider can be located within reasonable travelling distance. The court must also (with the assistance of CAFCASS) consider information about the proposed subject of the condition and the likely effect on the parent, taking account of his/her religious beliefs and work commitments.
More information about the various contact activities which can be ordered / directed by the court can be found below:
- Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) - England
- Working Together for Children Programme (WT4C) - Wales
- Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
- Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (DVPP)
- Child Contact Centre (supported or supervised)
Sometimes parents who have been directed by the courts to a contact activity will also required to attend an introductory meeting about mediation (a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting - MIAM) to assist them and the other parent to discuss, negotiate and work out arrangements for contact with their children.
National Family Mediation is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
National Family Mediation services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact National Family Mediation direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.