Family Law Hub

Child Arrangements

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  • Two young people of Spanish nationality, aged 17 and 14, applied to the court for declarations in respect of their status with a view to taking further proceedings to regularise their legal status. After being detained in France over the 2020 summer holidays as a result of applications made to the Spanish courts by the father, they were currently unable to travel outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for fear of their detention or retention, and the possible arrest of their mother. The applicants invited the court to consider making final orders that they would live with their mother, and they sought a new child arrangements order. Russell J DBE unhesitatingly accepted the submission that the facts of this case were exceptional, and it fell within s 9(7) of the Children Act 1989, so an order was required in respect of the older child despite her age. The circumstances of the case required an order reflecting the situation in real terms and releasing the applicants (and their mother) from any legal obligations to spend time with the father. There was no doubt that the children were habitually resident in this jurisdiction and that this court had jurisdiction over matters relating to parental responsibility for them. Judgment, 27/07/2021, free
  • This was an appeal, in the course of child arrangements proceedings, against a case management decision to exclude evidence from a fact-finding hearing where there were allegations of domestic abuse. The father's representative had raised the point that the mother's statement included allegations going beyond the five permitted in the Scott Schedule, as did other statements. The recorder noted that to permit only evidence which related to an allegation in the Scott Schedule was "a little on the narrow side", as an allegation might need to be put into context, but that it was also important to ensure that the hearing did not become unnecessarily lengthy. He had then concluded that significant sections of the mother's statement should be excluded, including her claim that that the father's violent and abusive behaviour towards the children had worsened. The mother appealed on four grounds: the recorder had been wrong to exclude the matters in the mother's sworn statement on the basis that they were irrelevant and inadmissible; wrong to exclude the professional evidence which was relevant to the child's allegations and the impact of the alleged abuse; wrong to exclude similar fact evidence, e.g. regarding the father's behaviour at work; and the recorder's conduct of the hearing had resulted in procedural fairness (a ground which was not pressed at this hearing). Judd J expressed sympathy for the recorder, who had not been responsible for any of the case management orders requiring the parties to limit their allegations to five. Nonetheless, his decision could not stand. The allegations beyond those in the Scott Schedule were neither inadmissible nor irrelevant; they were highly significant. The mother's appeal was allowed. The parents were directed to file narrative statements to be considered at the pre-trial review, alongside the mother's application to adduce evidence from doctors, her mother and the nanny. Judgment, 13/07/2021, free
  • 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 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 appealed concerning three aspects of a case management order made pursuant to Children Act 1989 proceedings. He wished to enforce/vary a child arrangements order, and contended that the judge had erred in refusing to order a fact-finding hearing to investigate his allegations of parental alienation, limiting the scope of the local authority's section 7 report, and refusing to appoint a Children's Guardian under FPR 16.4. The mother's position was that the father's application was part of a long-running campaign of meritless court applications aimed at undermining the current arrangements. Williams J allowed the appeal but only to a limited extent in respect of the remit of the section 7 report. The application would be remitted to the Central Family Court with a direction that an addendum section 7 report should be provided by Islington Children's Services regarding the son's expressed wishes in the light of the contact notes. In respect of all other grounds the appeal was refused. Williams J noted that the case illustrated the problems caused by the failure of parties and their advocates to focus on the real issues which the court had to grapple with at a time-limited FHDRA. Position statements which far exceeded the permitted length and did not clearly and succinctly identify the main issues to be determined were unhelpful. Judgment, 02/05/2021, free

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