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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 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 was Japanese, and the mother was Polish Canadian, currently living in England. The father applied under Article 21 of the 1980 Hague Convention for a contact order in respect of his 11-year-old son. There had been weekly telephone calls but no direct contact since 2018. The father was in substantial arrears of a maintenance pending suit order, and might face enforcement proceedings if returning to England. He proposed that contact should take place immediately in Japan. The mother's position was that it should take place initially in England before possibly, subject to the child's wishes, progressing to Japan. The Family Court Adviser raised the option of contact in France. In Peel J's view, it would be premature to make an order for contact in Japan. It would be against the son's wishes, and it was too soon to embark on such a major step. Although Japan was a Hague Convention signatory, he had no evidence as to the speed with which a return order would be made and implemented there, and the consequences for the son of being separated from his primary carer for a substantial period would be highly damaging. Peel J ordered that contact should take place in England, at first for one week in each of the summer and Christmas 2021 school holidays. The father would be ordered to lodge his passport with an appropriate firm at the beginning of each contact period. A prohibited steps order would be made preventing the father from removing the son from the mother's care (save for the purposes of contact) or removing him from this jurisdiction without her written consent. However, the making of this order would be conditional upon the mother not pursuing a judgment summons, or any other step leading to imprisonment of the father arising out of breach of the financial remedy order. If she was unwilling to give that assurance, the order would not be made in those terms. The quantum and duration of contact, and conditions, would be in the same terms, but the place of contact would be France. Judgment, 28/04/2021, free
  • The issue to determine was how much the four-year-old daughter should see of her father. The mother had alleged domestic abuse and rape. HHJ Tolson QC said it might be thought that the allegations "could have been safely consigned to the past", given that "at the time of the first allegation the mother was not even pregnant with [the daughter]" but in "the era in which we now operate … such allegations are invariably taken very seriously". He invited "both parents and everyone involved in the case to recall that all we are about is establishing, if possible, a good relationship between a little girl and her father" and the allegations of rape, which he described as "limited non-consensual sex", "would have, in my judgment, almost no implications at this stage for the future development of the relationship between the father and [the daughter]". He found that the mother's allegations of the first incident were "deeply unconvincing stuff", which meant that in his view he was "faced with a dishonest witness and it is a very long step indeed to my accepting the accuracy of her version of events" as to the second alleged incident. He reached the conclusion that the events did not happen, while the alleged "financial abuse and emotional abuse and harassment, have not been investigated during this trial" and had "no implications for the future child arrangements in the context of this case". His conclusion was that "there are no relevant findings which amount to any risk to the child or indeed any risk to the mother herself", and so the way was now clear "to develop the father's relationship with [the daughter] into one where there is a normal relationship between a separated father and his daughter". He provided for a further hearing, should agreement between the parties prove impossible. A later note stated that the parties had reached agreement and an order by consent had been made. Judgment, 06/04/2021, free
  • The parents had lived together for twelve years. During previous proceedings regarding contact with their two children, the mother had alleged domestic abuse on the father's part, both towards her and towards a subsequent partner. Following a conviction for assault on a third partner, he applied to enforce an order for contact, in response to which the mother raised the issue of his violent behaviour towards multiple partners. The district judge found that there had been domestic abuse, but later recused herself after realising that her son and the mother were members of the same sports club. The judge then agreed to re-open the district judge's earlier findings of fact on the basis of apparent bias. The mother appealed with regard to the recusal and the decision to re-open the findings. Peter Jackson LJ found that the judge's decision had been both wrong and unfair. The district judge had not discovered that her son and the mother knew each other until months after her findings of fact had been made. King and Phillips LJJ agreed. The father's application was dismissed, and the proceedings were remitted for the welfare decision to be taken on the basis of the district judge's findings of fact by another circuit judge. Judgment, 17/12/2020, free

Latest know-how

Latest training

  • Recording of webinar broadcast live on 23 February 2017. Webcast, 02/03/2017, members only
  • In this webcast, which was recorded on 1 September 2016, Charlotte Trace, barrister at 29 Bedford Row, takes us through how to make private law Children Act applications, principally applications under section 8 of the Act (namely for contact, residence, specific issue and prohibited steps orders) and applications under section 11 for contact activity directions and conditions, and for enforcement. Webcast, 02/09/2016, members only
  • Piers Pressdee QC of 29 Bedford Row reviews the major developments within the private children law field in the last year. He focusses on the case-law, identifying the key decisions and seeking to set that case-law within context. Webcast, 24/02/2016, members only
  • Webinar recorded on 15 January 2015. Dafydd Griffiths of 29 Bedford Row reviews the private children law cases of 2014 and picks out some themes to look out for in 2015. Webcast, 15/01/2015, members only
  • Webcast on recent developments in private children law. Webcast, 16/10/2013, members only

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