Family Law Hub

Child Arrangements

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  • The father appealed against an order that he should only have indirect contact with his children (aged 8 and 7), that they should live with their mother, and that he should excluded from making decisions with respect to their education and health. Judd J DBE concluded that this appeal should be allowed. The recommendation of the Cafcass officer, as accepted by the judge, had been based upon the officer's view that the father had engaged in coercively controlling and abusive behaviour, but these findings had not formally been sought and there had not been a fact-finding hearing. The Cafcass officer had not observed the children with their father. If the recorder had weighed in the balance the harm that could be caused to the children by the immediate loss of their relationship with the father, it was not apparent from the judgment. The case was remitted for rehearing, and would have to be listed for another FHDRA, where questions such as separate representation for the children, the ambit of any fact-finding hearing, and whether there should be a psychological assessment of the father would be considered. Judgment, 25/09/2020, free
  • A male child had resulted from a surrogacy arrangement. The wife had then arranged a further surrogacy without the husband's knowledge, and they had subsequently separated. The husband and wife jointly sought a parental order for the first child, and the father sought a child arrangements order with regard to him. The guardian supported the father's application. The wife sought a non-molestation order against the husband, as well as findings of fact that she had been the subject of financial, coercive and controlling abuse during their relationship. Keehan J did not place any great weight on the views and opinions of the social worker involved, who had omitted a number of a significant factors from her assessments in the case, but he gave considerable weight to the recommendations of the guardian. He found that it was in the son's welfare best interests to live with his father, and made a child arrangements order to that effect. He made none of the findings of fact sought by the mother against the father. Judgment, 25/09/2020, free
  • The Court of Appeal had decided that the daughter must be distanced entirely from a cult with which the mother was involved. The mother had said she would renounce the cult, speak to a therapist and consult a dietician in respect of the child, but the Court of Appeal had found that her undertakings wholly failed to acknowledge the change in approach required were she to maintain care of the child. The case had been remitted to the Family Division for further consideration. At this hearing, Williams J found that the mother's witness statement did not paint a persuasive picture of a significant change in attitude. There was almost no engagement with the harm caused to the child, the process leading to that harm, or the damaging nature of the beliefs and practices of the cult. Were the child to remain in the mother's care, the process of estrangement would continue and the child's relationship with the father would be terminated. The child would live with her father and spend such time with her mother as the father might agree in consultation with the independent social worker involved in the case. Judgment, 20/07/2020, free
  • 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

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