For varying reasons, a parent may have been absent from a child’s life. They may have been living overseas or in a different city, lost contact, or been unable to maintain a relationship with the child.

Circumstances can change, which may lead to a parent wanting to re-establish contact with their child. This may happen weeks, months, or years after they last visited. It is important to remember that a child’s perception of time is different from an adult. What may seem like a short amount of time to an adult can feel a lot longer for a child. It is therefore important to keep in mind that just because a parent is in a position, or now ready, to have a relationship with the child, that does not necessarily mean the immediate introduction of that parent is in the child’s best interests.

It can take considerable time in some cases to rebuild a relationship with a child and gain the trust of the other parent. This can especially be the case if a parent left when the child was young, and the child has little to no memory of them.

In these situations, the Court often prefers to see a graduated progression in contact rather than jumping straight into shared care or overnight contact. The amount of time spent at each stage, who should be present and in what environment, will ultimately come down to the child’s needs and how they adjust to the contact. These cases are dealt with on a case by case basis.

It is important to remember that in most circumstances, it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents. So, while it can be difficult seeing a parent come back into a child’s life after a significant period of time, it is often important for the other parent to support their child’s relationship with them. At the same time, returning parent’s need to ensure that they follow through and can be relied on to turn up for contact. Patience and trust are often the keys to success in rebuilding a relationship with a child, and any arrangement agreed upon must be one that protects a child’s physical and psychological well-being.

For More Information

It is important to take legal advice if you are considering proposing a stepped progression, or if the other parent is preventing contact from taking place. If you have any questions about parenting or guardianship matters, feel free to contact one of Morrison Kent’s family law team for assistance.

Debbie Dunbar | 04 495 9940 | Debbie.dunbar@morrisonkent.com 
Maretta Twentyman | 04 495 8918 | Maretta.twentyman@morrisonkent.com
Anna Chapman | 04 495 8905 | Anna.chapman@morrisonkent.com
Racheal Allison | 04 495 9949 | Racheal.allison@morrisonkent.com
Mikayla Turner | 04 495 8915 | mikayla.turner@morrisonkent.com

When can an absent parent see their child? | Family Law