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Under Section 34, children’s services must allow the child to have ‘reasonable contact’ with:
- His or her parents, or anyone else who has parental responsibility.
- Any guardian or special guardian.
- Anyone named on a child arrangements order as the person who a child was to live with just before a care order was made.
These people can apply for a contact order if they feel children’s services are not agreeing a reasonable level of contact. Other relatives who are not specified in Section 34 may also be able to apply for an order. They would first need to obtain the court’s permission (known as ‘leave of the court‘) to do so.
A contact order is sometimes very straightforward. It may simply say that contact between the child and named person should take place.
However, a contact order might also include specific conditions and directions, such as where contact should take place and on what dates, or that other specified people should be present during direct face-to-face contact, or that contact should be indirect only.
In 2014, contact orders made in private law cases (saying who a child should have contact with after their parents’ separation, for example) were replaced by child arrangements orders. In those cases, contact orders were made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, which was amended by the Children and Families Act 2014.