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Children

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  • The marriage had broken down one year before and the parents were now living separately, both in Dubai. The court was concerned with the arrangements for two children, aged 6 and 3, in relation to the time they would spend between their parents' homes. Both parents accepted that court intervention was necessary because of their inability to agree a way forward. The children had shown increasing signs of distress. Roberts J found that the children had indeed suffered emotional harm through this period, and the older child's insecurities had not been properly addressed in the very early days of the breakdown of the parents' relationship. The father accepted that he had exposed the children to far too much of the parental conflict. However, his actions had not been sufficient to provide an evidential basis for the restrictions on his parental responsibility which the mother sought. Roberts J ordered a three-stage set of arrangements, which at first involved two overnight stays on alternate weeks, and then eventually four overnight stays per fortnight. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • The two sisters were aged 7 and 2. Their father had parental responsibility for them both, being named on their birth certificates, but was currently serving a term of life imprisonment for the attempted murder of their mother. The mother applied for termination of his parental responsibility, and to change their surname. HHJ Vincent noted that orders depriving a father of his parental responsibility and replacing his surname for another should only be made by a court where there was a solid and secure evidential and factual basis for doing so, and where the orders were in the best interests of the children concerned. In this case, there was a risk of harm to the girls if he were to exercise his parental responsibility for them, and he continued to be assessed as a high risk to the mother and the children. To permit the mother to change their names would be consistent with their welfare and enable her to act protectively. Thus the mother succeeded on both her applications. The father would be discharged of his parental responsibility for both girls and the mother would be permitted to change their names. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • The parents had separated in 2015, and the girls were now aged 13 and 11. The father applied for variation of the shared-care child arrangements order, following local authority concerns as to the mother's alcohol use and mental health. The mother sought a return to the previous shared care arrangement, which had been suspended throughout the proceedings. HHJ Vincent noted that the children’s welfare was the paramount consideration. The mother did not recognise the concerns about her parenting, and to the extent she accepted that she had an issue with alcohol, she denied it would have impacted upon the children. It was evident that she was unable to regulate her emotions. Having regard to all the evidence he had heard and read, and considering all the factors on the welfare checklist at section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, HHJ Vincent was satisfied that the girls’ welfare needs were met by a continuation of the current arrangements. He ordered that the children would live with their father, and that any direct contact should be supervised by a third party. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • The father applied for the child's summary return to Australia. The mother, who was deaf and had a cochlear implant due for replacement, relied on a defence under Article 13(b) of the 1980 Hague Convention. Submissions on her behalf focused on the father's criminal convictions, for which he had been placed on the sex offenders register. Hayden J noted that it was an established precept of child safeguarding that where, as here, a convicted offender failed to acknowledge guilt and/or sought to minimise his behaviour, such actions were to be generally regarded as indicative of continuing risk. The mother made allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour against him, but appeared to have a very poor grasp of the risk that he could present to her children. Hayden J was comfortably satisfied that the evidence established a grave risk of serious harm to a child. In Australia, her isolation, vulnerability, challenges with communication and incomplete understanding of the risk the father represented would all leave her exposed to the manipulative and abusive behaviour of which he was accused. The defence provided by Article 13(b) was established and the application was dismissed. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • The Family Court had found it impossible to say whether the mother or her then boyfriend had been responsible for very serious injuries to a one-year-old child, but in the criminal proceedings the boyfriend had been convicted of causing them, and the mother acquitted of those charges. The Court of Appeal now considered her appeal from the refusal of an application to reopen the Family Court's findings of fact. Peter Jackson LJ noted that for an appeal of this nature to succeed an appellant must show that the judge made a material error of law or reached a conclusion that was not reasonably available. The applicant had not succeeded in that task. In this complex case, the judge had the marked advantage of having conducted a very substantial fact-finding hearing that left him with a distinctive view of the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence that he had read and heard. His judgment showed conspicuous care and command of the issues. The mother's case was essentially a rehearsal of the submissions made to the judge, with a complaint that he had not attached more or less weight to certain elements, and that approach did not really engage with the appeal test. Singh and Stuart-Smith LJJ agreed. The judge's decision was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free

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