Court orders
Is indirect contact working to promote contact between parents and their children? 
We talk about indirect contact fairly regularly, as it is an important part of our work as McKenzie Friends. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, indirect contact is when the court orders that a parent may not see their children for a defined period of time, and they may only write to them either by sending letters in the post or emailing them. Parents are usually encouraged to write letters rather than email to maintain that physical connection, and this also allows them to send gifts in the envelope with their letter. We support several parents with their indirect contact, either through our Special Delivery craft kit product, or more directly with supporting them in the letter writing itself, so we see the issues with indirect contact that face these parents. 
Firstly, the court issues a timetable for how often a parent may send their children a letter. This is often monthly, although it may be every other month or even less often than that. This is clearly not enough to maintain a relationship. However, this becomes more of a problem if the children do not receive their letters at all, and this is the second and potentially biggest issue. If the other parent does not engage with 
the process, if they are unwilling to be civil and give the children the letters, then no contact at all takes place, and sadly, this is something that we see all too often. The other parent, the one that the children live with, may hide the letters and simply throw them away rather than allowing the children to hear from their parent, as there is too much acrimony remaining for them to behave in a civil manner. 
Within the Special Delivery kit, there is a guide that we put together that details the best ways to go about indirect contact, including a section about dealing with obstacles, and we thought we would share some of those tips with you now. If the other parent is a barrier to your children receiving your letters, then there are things you can do to try and ensure either that your children do hear from you, or, if not, that you have proof to show in court that you engaged in the process. If you can, send your letter recorded delivery. This is, of course, expensive, however it ensures you have proof that you sent, and perhaps more importantly, that your letter was received, even if your children did not get to read it. You should always ask for proof of postage too, so you have the receipts with dates showing that something was sent. You could also include a stamped addressed envelope in with your letter. This shows that you expect a reply, and prevents the other parent from refusing to pay postage, as it has already been paid for. It is important to be aware, however, that vindictive parents may fill a pre-paid envelope with more items, so it weighs more and will go over the postage, meaning you will need to collect it from the sorting oce and pay the extra cost. It is likely that the other parent will open the post before the children do, and may remove any items they do not like. To prevent this, mention everything you send in the letter, so nothing can be quietly removed without the children knowing. 
Perhaps our most important piece of advice is to not lose hope when you receive no replies. It is important that you continue to send letters. It will reflect much better on you in court if you can show that you continued to engage with the contact, even if the other parent did not. It is far more likely that you are not receiving anything because the other parent won't let them reply to you, rather than the children not wanting to write. Your letters may still be reaching them, so they know that you are thinking about them, and you still want to write, even with no reply. 
Another issue with indirect contact that is unfortunately becoming more common is that it continues for far too long. With the court timetable still months, or even years, behind where it needs to be, this means that the time between hearings is growing, and so the time where a parent only has indirect contact is also growing. The hearing is your opportunity to negotiate contact, and prove that during indirect contact you were engaged and enthusiastic in conversing with your children, and so with the hearings years apart, it is harder and harder to maintain this attitude, particularly if the other parent prevents the children from replying to you. 
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