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Child Arrangements

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  • The seven-year-old boy had dual Dutch and French nationality, and was agreed to be habitually resident in England and Wales with his mother. The French father, living in a non-Hague Convention country, sought a detailed order regulating his time with his son, and giving him permission to take the boy out of England and Wales on trips, including to his present country of residence. The mother had not engaged with proceedings or the father's solicitors, citing illness. HHJ Corbett, sitting as a s 9(1) deputy judge of the High Court, found that the mother had ignored the court proceedings, hoping that they would go away, but he had heard from her in detail and at length at the hearing. He was satisfied that each parent had had a fair trial in accordance with Article 6, and that the orders he would make were necessary and proportionate interferences with their Article 8 rights. He decided upon the dates which the son would spend with the father. As to international travel, there was in his judgment no risk of abduction, but the father would be directed to lodge a bond with his solicitors, to be paid to the mother if necessary to fund her legal costs of securing a return. The mother was ordered to respond to reasonable requests from the father regarding the son within 48 hours, and to give him 14 days' notice of any overseas travel plans. Judgment, 28/11/2020, free
  • An appeal out of time by the mother against a decision that the father could arrange for the children to visit and stay with the paternal grandparents in the Ukraine. The children were very reluctant to see their father, and it had emerged that the father might be living with the paternal grandparents. She asked for the order to be varied for the holiday to take place within the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Williams J allowed the appeal and remitted the case to a circuit judge at the Central Family Court for the issues to be determined. The decision had been reached in a manner that rendered it unjust by reason of serious procedural irregularity. Given the absence of notice and the lack of evidence neither the parties nor the court were in a position fairly to determine the issue. There was almost no consideration of the effect on the children or the risk of emotional harm or any reference to their wishes and feelings. Given the effect on the children of not being returned was a primary issue in such applications, the absence of any consideration of the issue rendered the decision wrong. Judgment, 09/11/2020, free
  • 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

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