When parents separate they will of course understand that they must sort out arrangements for their children, and very often those arrangements will entail the children spending most of their time living with one parent, and then having contact with the other parent.
But what many parents will not be aware of is that sometimes there will be costs associated with that contact, and if the costs are not paid, the contact will not take place. The costs can take various forms, but perhaps the most common is where the contact takes place at a contact centre. The contact centre will charge a fee for this service.
But who pays the costs? A recent case in the High Court has provided some answers.
The case is actually the same one we reported upon here back in December, although then dealing with a different point. As we mentioned in that previous post, the court found that the father had subjected the mother to serious domestic abuse, including rape and coercive control.
The father was having supervised contact with the parties’ child at a contact centre. This contact had been ordered by the court, which also ordered that the contact costs should be shared equally between the father and mother.
The mother appealed against this order, arguing that it was wrong for her, a victim of serious abuse, to have to pay for her abuser to have contact with their child.
In considering the appeal the High Court had to decide firstly whether the court had power to order a party to pay the costs of contact and secondly whether a victim of domestic abuse should be required to share the costs of contact with the perpetrator of that abuse.
The High Court held that there was power for the court to order a party to pay the costs of contact, to ensure that the contact it has ordered should take place.
As to the second question, the High Court held that there should be a very strong presumption against a victim of domestic abuse paying for the contact of their child with the abuser. An order for them to do so should only be made in wholly exceptional circumstances, taking into account all relevant factors, including whether the contact is in the child’s best interests, and whether it would take place without a sharing of the costs.
In this particular case the High Court set aside the order that the mother pay a proportion of the costs of contact.
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