What is reasonable phone/video contact for a non-custodial parent?

When a relationship ends and you have children, decisions need to be made about arrangements for contact to the non-resident parent. Contact can be direct, or in other words, face-to-face, or indirect incorporating telephone calls, FaceTime, emails, letters, and gifts. But what is reasonable contact with a child for a non-custodial parent? Here, we find out more.

If you have concerns about your family situation or your children and you feel you need legal advice, contact specialist family solicitor Mark Heptinstall of Slater Heelis Solicitors. He is recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ in The Legal 500 and ranked in Chambers UK, and is described as having “the amazing ability to bring calm into troubled waters”.

What is reasonable indirect contact?

There is no real definitive answer to what is considered reasonable because it depends on each family’s individual circumstances. When deciding on the frequency of indirect contact, the primary concern should always be what is in the child’s best interests. You will need to think about the age of the child, schooling arrangements, and the work commitments of both you and the person with day to day care.

If indirect contact is to be implemented successfully, you should try to work around the child’s schedule and limit the disruption as much as possible. If the child is very young, then the non-resident parent should consider the duration of the contact, as the child’s attention span is likely to be noticeably shorter. Indirect contact via telephone calls and video should be led by the child, as forcing them to stick to a particular amount of time can be stressful for everyone, and sometimes result in the child not wanting to have contact altogether.

A child refusing to see their non-resident parent can be difficult to deal with. Try to communicate with the other parent and work together to find out why the child feels that way.

Why does indirect contact for a non-custodial parent matter?

It is easy for non-resident parents to think that indirect contact is futile or not as meaningful, particularly if they are not having direct contact with their children, too. But maintaining indirect contact has been found to be important for a child’s understanding of their wider family, and in continuing to develop a relationship with their non-resident parent.

Letters, gifts, and telephone/video calls are a positive way to help children understand why they don’t have one of their parents in their lives all the time.


Can I be guaranteed regular phone/video contact with my child?

It is always more desirable for parents to come to an agreement regarding arrangements for their child to have regular phone or video contact. However, if this cannot be agreed and contact was ordered during court proceedings, the frequency, duration, and manner of the contact should be set out in the court order. If this is breached, then the matter can be taken back to court.

How can I make sure I get indirect contact right?

Making contact meaningful with your child when you are unable to see them face-to-face can be difficult, but here are our tips to ensure such contact goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Make sure any gifts and cards are age appropriate
  • Ensure the cards are not too overwhelming. Try to keep things light and meaningful, ask them about school and their achievements.
  • Try not to make any promises. The last thing you want to do is make promises you can’t deliver. After all, such decisions may be out of your control, anyway.
  • Don’t use the opportunity to undermine your ex. Using FaceTime as a way to get at your ex through your child can be really damaging, and may lead the child to refuse to engage in contact.
  • Make sure the contact is meaningful. If the gifts, cards, or emails aren’t meaningful, then it is unlikely to have a lasting impact on your child. You need to demonstrate to your child that you understand what they like, what they don’t like, and what is important to them. This is how you will build a lasting relationship with them.

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