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When you find your access to your children is being stopped by your ex, you should immediately ask if you can see your children in a contact centre.
If you are using a solicitor, your solicitor should set this up for you. You may need to be proactive and phone the Contact Centre up yourself to find out if you have indeed been referred. It is really important that you see your children as quickly as possible, so do remind the solicitor daily that you want the referral urgently. You are paying the solicitor.
If you are going to be a Self Representing Litigant, contact the Contact Centre directly and ask advice. They have referral forms you fill in.
If you are having difficulties getting referred to a contact centre, phone our Helpline 0845 600 44460845 600 4446. We have been able to refer parents to the Contact Centres in Wales.
What is a contact centre? It is a safe place where a parent can see their children which is either a "supported" contact centre or a "supervised" contact centre.
- If your ex has made allegations about you which seem far-fetched, you will normally be allowed to see your children in a supported contact centre.
- If you are considered a risk to your children, then you can see them at a supervised contact centre.
For more information about contact centres, you can look on the National Association of Child Contact Centres web site.
We know it seems unjust that you have to go to the Contact Centre but the most important thing in the struggle to stay in your children's lives, is the staying visible bit.
Think about it from a small child's point of view. If they are not seeing you, they will think you don't care about them and don't love them. If your ex is also telling them that, it isn't going to take very long for the child to have a deep seated hurt and feeling of rejection that makes many children say they don't want to see the other parent. This can be the start of parental alienation.
Even if you can only see your child in a Contact Centre while your case plods its way through the Family Law system, the child sees that you are still around and sees that you still love your child. This is so, so important.
We have removed our own list of contact centres in Wales as this was out of date.
We know there are also Social Services' Family Centres where contact can take place but we have not been able to get a list of those centres. If your case involves Social Services, do ask for contact with your child.
Tips for coping in a Contact Centre.
- When you go to the Contact Centre, plan before hand how you can play with your children. We know dads who took face paints in; we know mums who took the children's favourite story book in; we know dads who took craft activities in, a new lego pack that can be built within the two hours, board games. Do go prepared. Take crayons. Take paper. Maybe they would like to share your music on your i-phone via an i-cloud arrangement. Maybe you can download some music you know they would like before hand.
There is a site called http://www.ichild.co.uk/ that gives suggestions of play activities which may give you ideas.
- The volunteers
Without volunteers most Contact Centres would struggle to offer a service on the weekend which is when most parents can come to the Contact Centre. Traditionally the Mothers Union has been fantastic at providing volunteers.
- Please remember to be polite to the volunteers.
- Please remember that the volunteers are helping out of the goodness of their hearts and may never have experienced in their family, the hell you are going through. One or two may unintentionally treat you as if you are a nasty-pasty and that can be hard to bear. It is not intended. Do not take offense.
- Please remember to thank the volunteers when you leave the centre and say how grateful you are that they give up their time for such an important cause.
Think about volunteering yourself in the future! We are looking into setting up a Contact Centre in Swansea and we'll be needing all the help we can get.