Sticking to shared parenting arrangements
The importance of sticking to childcare arrangements has been highlighted after a father was sent to jail for abducting his son.
When a relationship breaks down and children are involved, co-parenting arrangements made in court are designed to put children first. Where possible, the courts encourage contact with both parents, favouring an arrangement that is in the child’s best interests.
When parents do not stick to these arrangements they may be taking big risks and, in some cases, may even face jail time. Whether you are granted the main caring responsibilities, or some level of restricted access, it is very important that you stick to the arrangements set out in court, which are designed to cause as little disruption as possible to your child.
A recent case in Scotland saw a father jailed for two years after he was ruled to have abducted his 11-year-old son from the building where the child lived with his mother.
While the Family Court had ruled that the boy live with his mother, the father was granted parental rights, albeit with very limited contact. The father, identified only as ‘SB’, then collected the child from outside his home and took him to England, and held him there against his will.
This case is particularly significant in that the parent was tried through criminal, rather than civil, proceedings. In similar cases, when parents take their own children away against the rules of a court order, the courts will usually try to settle matters through civil proceedings for contempt of court. As the child was in no immediate danger, the father was deemed to have acted without “lawful authority”.
Following an appeal, the father’s sentence has been reduced from two years to nine months.
In another recent case, Rebecca Minnock took her three-year-old son into hiding after courts ruled that the boy should live with his father. The child has since been returned to his father, who has chosen not to pursue legal activity. Ms Minnock, if charged and found guilty, could have faced a month in jail.
Although these are extreme cases, they point to the importance of sticking to court orders. While family courts do aim to help parents come to an agreement over childcare, they will always put the needs of the child first. We recognise that this can be painful for parents with limited contact, and offer advice on how to make the most of contact.
For free support with childcare arrangements, you can sign up for Splitting Up? Put Kids First and get started on your Parenting Plan.