When contact arrangements aren’t working

Last updated: 22/03/2022

What to do when contact arrangements go wrong.

When your child doesn’t want to visit their other parent

There could be various reasons why your children do not want to visit their other parent. Ask your child why the arrangements aren’t working, and listen to what they tell you. Ask your child for suggestions about how contact might work better. Your child’s other parent could also be involved in this discussion.

For example:

  • As your children get older, they may want to spend more time with friends, go to activities or study for exams.
  • They might not want to spend as much time with either parent, which can upset contact arrangements.
  • Your child may be upset because of changes to their routines, where they live or people they meet.

Give your child time to adjust to new situations and accept that some arrangements will need to change over time



Relationships Scotland

Relationships Scotland offers a mediation service

Relationships Scotland also runs Parenting Apart information sessions

My child’s other parent doesn’t keep contact arrangements

It can be disappointing and upsetting if your child’s other parent does not see your child when planned.

Here are some tips to help deal with this:

  • Try to agree contact times and places that suit everyone.
  • If your child’s other parent needs to cancel ask them to do this as soon as possible so you can make other arrangements.
  • Is contact by phone or Skype/Facetime an option?
  • If your child’s other parent does not turn up for contact let your child know that you understand why they might be upset. Avoid criticising your child’s other parent but you do not have to make up excuses for them. It is important that your child can trust you to be honest.
  • Explain to your child’s other parent why you need contact arrangements to go as planned.
  • If contact arrangements are broken constantly you could think about using family mediation. It is good for your child to have contact with their other parent but they do not have a right to disrupt your lives.  Relationships Scotland offer services that could help with this.
  • If your child’s other parent does not want contact with their child you cannot make them. You can explain how you and your child feel and what you both want but there is no legal way to force contact.

For more information on mediation services see: Services to help arrange contact

Parentline Scotland

Telephone: 08000 28 22 33 Mon – Fri, 9am -9pm and Sat – Sun, 9am to noon

Email: parentlinescotland@children1st.org.uk

The Scottish Child Law Centre

Telephone: 0131 667 6333 Mon – Fri, 9.30am – 4pm

Website: https://sclc.org.uk/

Reunite International

website: www.reunite.org

Your own and your child’s safety during contact

If you are concerned about your child’s safety or wellbeing during contact visits, speak to a solicitor or other legal service to find out about contact options such as using a contact centre for visits.

Depending on your income, you may get Legal Assistance or Legal Aid to help pay for legal advice.

The Scottish Child Law Centre  provide free legal advice on matters concerning children. You can also call Parentline Scotland for advice.

If you have concerns for your or your child’s safety call the police on 101 for advice


What to do if you believe your child will not be returned to you after contact

If you think that your child may not be returned to you after contact you can stop contact and get legal advice.

If your child is with their other parent and you think they will not be returned to you call the police on 101.

If your child’s other parent has Parental Responsibilities and Rights they have the right to be with your child but any contact arrangements should be agreed between you. This means your child’s other parent should not take your child without your knowledge and consent.

If you’re concerned about your child not returning from another country, contact Reunite International for advice on what to do.


Speaking to your children about safety and contact

Stress to your children that they do not ever need to protect you or the other parent, and that they can tell you if they are upset, worried or frightened. Depending on their age, you could agree how they can get in touch with you or someone they trust if they don’t feel safe during contact:

  • Agree a code word for using in conversation, text or email.
  • Make sure your children know when and how they will be coming home.
  • Let them know they can call Childline for free on 0800 1111 or the police if they feel unsafe or want to talk to someone in confidence.