How can I see my child without going to court?

Navigating the path of parenthood, especially when faced with the challenges of separation, can be a daunting journey. If you're seeking ways to maintain a meaningful relationship with your child without the complexities of court proceedings, you've come to a supportive space.

As family mediators, our goal is to provide a compassionate and constructive approach to resolving disputes, allowing both parents to focus on what truly matters: the well-being of their children.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore viable alternatives to court that respect both your and your child's needs.

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Alternatives to court proceedings

Navigating child arrangement agreements does not always necessitate court involvement. In fact, pursuing court proceedings is considered a last resort by some, given the emotional and financial toll it can take on families during a difficult time.

Fortunately, there are several alternative pathways that can lead to amicable and effective solutions. These non-court alternatives not only foster a more cooperative environment, but also offer the flexibility to tailor child arrangements to the unique needs of your family.

Here’s a breakdown of your options:

1. Reach an informal agreement

At first glance, reaching an informal agreement with the other parent may seem like the simplest route. This approach is based on mutual understanding and flexibility, allowing parents to amicably decide on contact schedules and child care responsibilities without external intervention.

However, it’s possible that you’ve already given this a try and are seeking guidance beyond this. If that is the case, then it's likely that an informal agreement might not be feasible in your situation.

Challenges in communication, differing parenting styles, or past conflicts can make informal agreements hard to achieve or sustain. Yet, it's important to remember that this is often the starting point for many ex couples, and there are other structured yet amicable solutions to explore.

2. Reach a formal agreement with a parenting plan

A more structured alternative to an informal agreement is creating a Parenting Plan. This plan is a written record of how you and your ex-partner agree to raise your child, and it can be created during family mediation sessions. While not initially legally binding, a Parenting Plan offers a clear framework for both parties, covering aspects like living arrangements, education, health care, and emotional well-being.

If you would then like to formalise the agreement further, there is the option to make the parenting plan legally binding through getting a consent order issued by the court.

The process of drafting this parenting plan encourages open communication and can often be an essential step in mediation. It serves as a testament to both parents' commitment to their child's welfare, providing a reference point that helps reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. Remember, a Parenting Plan, though formal, retains flexibility, allowing parents to adapt to their child's changing needs over time.

Child mediation

When exploring ways to maintain involvement in your child's life post-separation without going to court, child mediation stands out as a practical and often effective solution. It involves working with an impartial mediator to facilitate discussions between you and your ex-partner, aiming to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on child arrangements.

Mediation presents many advantages over going to court:

  • Collaborative decision-making: Unlike court proceedings, mediation gives you and your ex-partner control over the decisions. However, this also means both parties must be open to compromise and cooperation.
  • Flexibility and customisation: Mediation allows for tailored solutions that fit your family's unique needs. But remember, flexibility requires open and honest communication.
  • Cost and time efficiency: Mediation is generally more cost-effective and quicker than going to court, mediation’s success heavily depends on the willingness of both parties to actively participate and engage in the process.

If an agreement can not be reached through mediation, then going to court is often considered the next step.

4. Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)

Another valuable resource is the Planning Together for Children course and materials (formerly known as the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP), provided by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

This programme is designed to help parents understand the impact of separation on children and learn ways to mitigate it. Covering essential topics such as communication strategies and co-parenting, Planning Together for Children complements mediation by providing practical knowledge and skills.

Currently, the Planning Together for Children materials can only be accessed via a referral from Court or a CAFCASS Officer. However, CAFCASS also have an online parenting plan which is available without a need for a referral on CAFCASS’ website.

The role of child inclusive mediation

Child Inclusive Mediation offers a forward-thinking approach for parents seeking to address child arrangements without court proceedings. In accordance with Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Child Inclusive Mediation provides an opportunity for children to be involved when decisions are being made that concern them. To clarify, this does not mean that children are asked to make decisions, this is still the responsibility of their parents. Instead, Child Inclusive Mediation enables children to feel that they are being involved in the decisions, which helps them to feel listened to and respected.

Child inclusive mediation ensures that arrangements reflect not just parental perspectives but also the child's perspective. By directly involving the child in the conversation and asking them thoughtful questions, this method brings their needs and wishes into clear focus, fostering outcomes that are considerate and balanced for the entire family.

Let’s explore why child inclusive mediation can be a good method for making amicable solutions without court proceedings.

1. Enhancing constructive participation

Involving children in the mediation process can be transformative. Their perspectives often act as a catalyst, helping parents overcome deadlocks in discussions. When a child shares their thoughts and feelings, it can shift the focus of the mediation, encouraging parents to consider solutions that prioritise the child's emotional and developmental well-being.

This input can be particularly powerful in highlighting aspects that parents might have overlooked, ensuring that the final arrangements truly resonate with the child's needs and contribute to their overall growth and happiness.

2. Promoting balanced decision making

Child Inclusive Mediation can be instrumental in balancing the emotional dynamics of family discussions. By integrating children's voices, this approach can introduce an element of fairness and consideration that might otherwise be missing.

It encourages parents to view the situation through a broader lens, one that encompasses the child’s perspective. This inclusivity often leads to more equitable decisions, as both parents are more likely to feel that their child's welfare is being fairly represented and considered.

Consequently, this balanced approach facilitates easier agreement on practical and nurturing terms for the child’s future.

3. Fostering a unified front

One of the profound impacts of Child Inclusive Mediation is its ability to foster unity and a shared sense of purpose among separated parents.

As both parents and children engage in the mediation process, there’s a collaborative effort towards a common goal: the well-being of the child.

This inclusive dialogue can help to build a stronger commitment to the agreed-upon arrangements. When everyone has a chance to express their views and feel acknowledged, it cultivates a cooperative environment, reinforcing the importance of working together for the child's best interests, despite personal differences.

If you think mediation might be helpful for your family’s situation, you can learn more about our child mediation services.

Agreeing on child arrangements

When it comes to agreeing on child arrangements, the heart of the matter is ensuring the well-being and stability of your child. It's about striking a balance that respects the child's needs and the realities of each parent's situation. Here are some key considerations to bear in mind:

  • Living arrangements: Consider how your child will manage their time between homes. This includes not just where they will live but also how they will transition between homes.
  • Education and health care: Agree on how decisions regarding your child’s education and health care will be made and who will be responsible for these aspects.
  • Communication: Establish clear and respectful communication channels regarding your child’s needs, schedules, and any changes that might arise.
  • Flexibility: Life is unpredictable. Be prepared to revisit and adjust arrangements as your child grows and their needs evolve.
  • Holidays and special occasions: Plan how holidays, birthdays, and other significant events will be shared or alternated between parents.

During child mediation an impartial mediator will help you with creating a parenting plan that best serves your child's wellbeing.

Remember, the goal is to create a stable and nurturing environment for your child, where they feel loved and secure, regardless of the changes in family dynamics.

Making an agreement legally binding

A common concern for parents considering alternatives to court proceedings is whether the agreements they reach can be made legally binding. It's reassuring to know that agreements reached through mediation, such as a Parenting Plan, can indeed be formalised into a legally binding document. This step provides an added layer of security and clarity, ensuring that both parties adhere to the agreed terms.

While the mediation process itself is not legally binding, the decisions made can be converted into a 'Consent Order' application and then approved by a court. It's important to note that for an agreement to be legally binding, both parties must fully understand and willingly agree to the terms. We have a guide on making mediation agreements legally binding, if you’d like more information.

The goal of making agreements legally binding is not to create a rigid framework but to provide a clear, enforceable structure that supports the best interests of your child and respects the agreements reached by both parents.


Resolving child visitation issues doesn't have to lead down the often costly and emotionally taxing path of court proceedings. There are numerous alternatives that offer a gentler, more constructive approach.

Mediation, and in particular, child inclusive mediation, can provide a platform for meaningful compromise and understanding, balancing the needs and emotions of the entire family.

Choose Mediation First for child mediation

If you're facing challenges with child arrangements or family-related issues, you can turn to Mediation First.

Our team specialises in family mediation, guiding you towards agreements on child arrangements, parenting plans, and even financial and property matters, all while avoiding the stress and expense of litigation.

Explore our child and family mediation services, or contact us directly to learn more. We're dedicated to helping you find a resolution that puts your children’s well-being at the forefront.

Get in touch using our online form, or contact us by phone or email:

Tel: 0330 320 7600