The terminology of 'residence' and 'contact' orders has been abolished by the government and replaced with the concepts of children 'living with' and 'spending time with' their parents. The purpose of these changes is to put the parents on a more equal footing, and in particular to prevent the dominance of the 'resident parent' over the 'contact parent'. It is an attempt to reflect the more modern day parenting, whereby both parents play a significant role in their child's life.
In private law proceedings between parents (these are proceedings between individuals, rather than public proceedings where a child may be taken into care) the Court's main powers are to make the following orders where necessary:
- that a child shall live with one or both parents: to settle where a child has his/her main home or whether the child is to have two main homes under a shared care arrangement;
- that a child shall spend time with a parent;
- that a child shall spend indirect time with a parent - this includes telephone calls, letters, cards, Skype, emails, WhatsApp etc;
- a specific issue order: to settle a dispute over a particular issue such as education religion or health; and
- a prohibited steps order: to stop a parent or another person from doing something.
Elizabeth McCallum represented the successful father in the leading case of Re W 2012 EWCA 999, when the Court of Appeal ordered direct contact between the father and his estranged children.