Family Law Hub

EG v JG [2013] EW Misc 21 (CC)

Application for a specific issue order under the Children Act concerning schooling for children of a divorced couple where religion is a central issue.

  • In brief: An interesting case we have covered previously involving a mother's ("M") application for a specific issue order over the choice of secondary schooling. 

    M and the father ("F"), who were Jewish, had a number of children; this application concerned their youngest four and who should be responsible for making the application for their secondary schools and deciding the choice of schools. In 2012, the Court of Appeal had rejected F's application to appeal against a shared residence order and an order that the children attend schools proposed by M (see Re G [2012] EWCA Civ 1233).

    To recap, M and F came from families of the Chassidic (Hasidic) or Chareidi community of ultra-orthodox Jews. M had petitioned for divorce. A major reason for the parties' marriage breakdown was that M no longer wished to follow the strict tenets of that community. She remained an orthodox Jew but wished for a way of living for herself and the children which allowed greater diversity of educational, personal and economic opportunity than would be likely within the Chareidi community. M's own parents and siblings were no longer in contact with her.

    Following the proceedings in 2012, M took the view that she was responsible for the future choice of schools for the children. F disagreed with her choices, but both parents proposed that the children should attend state funded schools.

    The matter was heard by HHJ Million. The judge was not in a position to decide which particular school ZG or the other children should attend as the parents were still at the selection stage. Therefore, the court could only decide which schools should be on the application form, and in which order.  

    It was M's strong wish that the children all have a more "liberal" co-educational schooling, and go to the same Jewish secondary school, if possible. F viewed his choice as a reasonable compromise, where children from both "modern orthodox" and "orthodox" families attended. F used those adjectives in preference to the Judge's use of "orthodox" and "ultra-orthodox" respectively.

    There was some urgency as the eldest child ZG is due to start secondary school in September 2014. ZG had told F that he wanted to attend the school of F's choice. 

    M sought an immediate decision about the issue. F argued that the decision should be delayed until a report from CAFCASS or an independent social worker was available about the elder child's wishes and feelings. The representatives for both parents accepted that there was no significant difference in the educational standards between M's first choice and F's first choice for ZG. 

    Taking into account ZG's wishes, the judge decided that he should not be asked directly about the choices available. 

    Finding that it was in the best interests of the children to go to schools of M's choice, and to make a final decision in respect of all the children, the Judge concluded:-

    "...a delay to obtain a further report about the children's wishes and feelings carries practical risks of damaging the choices for ZG in the schools application process (as already described).   Even if it did not (and it does not in respect of the younger 3 children) it would be merely to repeat the exercise carried out last year.   It would draw the children again into the conflicts between the parents.   In any event ZG and the younger children are not in a position to be able to weigh up and decide the complex factors involved in their long-term welfare interests.   These are decisions for adults and, where the adults do not agree, for the court to decide." 

    HHJ Million relied on the report prepared by CAFCASS for the proceedings in 2012. 

    Finally, the judge was critical of F for spending a considerable amount of money on litigation whilst making minimal contribution towards the maintenance of the parties' five children, which he found was a "grossly disproportionate misdirection of F's available financial resources". Whilst HHJ Million did not make an order for costs, he warned that any further similar application would carry the risk of the court intervening through such an order.

Case note, published: 18/02/2014

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See also

  • Application for a specific issue order under the Children Act concerning schooling for children of a divorced couple where religion is a central issue. Judgment, 05/12/2013, free

Published: 18/02/2014

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