A Scottish father who fought for more than three years to secure greater contact with his young son has shared his story to raise awareness of the rights that many separated parents do not realise they have. He said he was only seeing his son for five hours a week before he sought legal help and eventually obtained a court order that allows him to have his son for 15 days a month.
Separation and divorce affect millions of children in the UK
According to statistics, there are about four million children in the UK whose parents are separated, and about 30 per cent of children in Scotland will experience family separation. The impact of parental separation on children’s wellbeing and development can be significant, especially if there is conflict or lack of communication between the parents.
Equal parental rights and responsibilities for both parents
One of the common misconceptions that many separated parents have is that one parent has more rights or responsibilities than the other. However, legally, both parents have the same parental rights and responsibilities if they are both named on the child’s birth certificate. This means that they both have the right to be involved in their child’s life and make decisions about their welfare, education, health, religion, etc.
Mediation and negotiation can help resolve disputes
The best outcome for the children and the parents is when they can reach an amicable agreement on how to share the care of their children, without resorting to court action. This can be done through mediation, where a trained mediator helps the parents to communicate and find a solution that suits their needs and preferences. Alternatively, the parents can negotiate through their lawyers, who can draft a written agreement that reflects their wishes.
Court intervention may be necessary in some cases
However, sometimes mediation or negotiation may not work, or one parent may act unreasonably or restrict the other parent’s contact with the child. In such cases, the parent who is struggling to gain or maintain contact with their child may need to apply to the court for a contact order. This is a legal document that specifies how often and when the child will see each parent. The court will consider the best interests of the child and try to ensure that they have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Alan’s story: from five hours to 15 days a month
Alan, who lives in central Scotland, separated from his former wife in 2019, with whom he shares a young son. He said he initially tried to organise contact with his son by himself, but it was not enough to allow him to have a close bond with his son. He said he felt “disillusioned” and “upset” by the situation, until he spoke to a lawyer who explained his rights and options. He then pursued his case in court and after several hearings, he obtained a final order that grants him 15 days a month with his son, as well as holidays. He said this has made a huge difference for him and his son, who are now “best friends”.
Advice for separated parents: know your rights and seek help
Alan said he wanted to share his story to encourage other separated parents not to give up hope and to seek advice from professionals who can help them. He said he did not think there was enough information out there for parents to understand what equal parental rights mean and how they can exercise them. He also said he was grateful for the support he received from his lawyer, who fought hard for him and brought calmness to the situation.
He said: “This was a horrible experience – something I never wish to go through again. But I am really happy with the outcome and I hope it can inspire others who are going through similar situations.”