Family Law Hub

Child Arrangements

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  • The mother's application for an extension of time to appeal, and for permission to appeal, against a child arrangements order. The mother said that the delay had been due to the shock caused by the order, and by her being physically unwell. The five grounds of appeal included that the judge had placed undue weight of the views of the child, and insufficient weight on factors such as the need for balance in the child's life, the views of the former caseworker, the risk of harm, and the fairness of the hearing. Williams J found that the explanation given by the mother for the delay was unsatisfactory. In his view, the judge's conclusion that the daughter's views were her own and should be given significant weight appeared to be unassailable. The criticism regarding the daughter's alleged need for greater balance was not supported. The Recorder was justified in departing from the caseworker's recommendations. The history of the case did not suggest an obvious risk of the child becoming estranged from the mother. Williams J was unable to discern anything which impinged upon the fairness of the process. He refused to grant an extension of time to appeal, and he refused to grant permission to appeal. Judgment, 16/06/2020, free
  • The father sought a child arrangements order while the mother opposed any direct contact. The mother alleged that she was the victim of the father's domestic violence and abuse. The case had engaged special measures, with a screen being used for the mother and the father being required to provide Willans J with his questions for her in advance, though Willans J expressed "grave reservations as to the resulting quality of evidence received". The allegations of rape and abduction were not found to be proven, while both mother and father were found to have sent inappropriate communications of a harassing nature to each other. Though the mother was found to have demonstrated implacable hostility, Willans J was not persuaded that the effects of this amounted to parental alienation. Consideration would now have to be given to whether contact could be re-established. The case needed to progress, and a Children's Guardian would be appointed prior to fixing a directions appointment. Judgment, 25/05/2020, free
  • The father applied for a summary inward return order in respect of a boy, one of three children, who was taken by the mother to both parents' native country of Sierra Leone and left there with her family. The mother cross-applied for an order permitting her retrospectively to relocate the boy. Mostyn J was also asked to make child arrangements orders regulating contact between the father and all three children. The father had not seen any of the children for three years. The mother alleged domestic abuse, and that the son had been involved in South London gang culture. The Cafcass officer recorded that the boy's emphatic wish was to remain in Sierra Leone until his education to GCSE level was complete. Mostyn J stated that the wishes of a Gillick-competent child on a particular issue, where they are not objectively foolish or unreasonable, should normally be given effect, and he was not satisfied that the child's wishes in this case were objectively foolish or unreasonable. The father's application for summary return was dismissed and the mother's application was granted. There would be supervised contact with the children, virtual at first, given the coronavirus, with the sessions recorded and the mother at liberty to stop them if the children became distressed. Mostyn J also commented on various procedural aspects of the case. Judgment, 18/05/2020, free
  • The father had applied for a child arrangements order that the children live with him, and a prohibited steps order preventing the mother from removing the children from the jurisdiction. It had previously been found as a fact that that the father had raped the mother, had physically assaulted her in front of the children, and had caused direct harm to one of the children. An expert witness concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of the father engaging successfully in therapy so that the risks he presented could be ameliorated. The guardian's view was that risks remained to the children, given the father's history of manipulative behaviours, and so even indirect contact was not recommended. The father claimed that this was a case of parental alienation, where the mother had sought to paint a false picture of him to the children and to the court. HHJ Vincent found there was no evidence of this. All of the mother's allegations had been found to be true. HHJ Vincent was not satisfied that the physical and emotional safety of the children and their mother could be secured before, during and after contact. They remained at risk of further domestic abuse by the father, even if contact were to be supervised. The father's applications were refused. Judgment, 28/04/2020, free
  • The five-year-old daughter had always lived with her mother, but had been the subject of legal proceedings between her parents for most of her life. All other avenues to engage and promote a good and loving relationship with the father having failed, he was now seeking an order that he should be the child's primary carer and that she should live with him. This application was supported by the child's Guardian. After hearing evidence regarding the consequences of the child being denied a relationship with the father, the mother ceased to actively oppose the father's application. Agreed findings were made that the daughter's relationship with the father had not been consistently promoted by the mother, that the mother was not in a position to promote a positive relationship between the daughter and the father, and that the mother had alienated the daughter from her father. HHJ Raeside (sitting as a judge of the High Court) made further findings including that the father would be better able to promote a relationship between the daughter and the mother. The child's welfare was best met by a transfer of care to her father, as well as an immediate change of school. Judgment, 17/03/2020, free

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