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« Pedal for Families Need Fathers Scotland | Main | Lay assistants get rights to speak in court »
Friday
Jul272012

English Court of Appeal rules contact with children shouldn't be blocked

 A father who was denied access to his children for three years because it upset their mother suffered a breach of his parental rights,according to a recent judgement in the English Court of Appeal.

It was ruled not acceptable for the mother to block the father’s reasonable efforts to see his two daughters.

The case concerned a battle between an unmarried couple who had a six-year relationship. In 2008 the mother left home without warning, taking her daughters, who were then aged four and one, and refusing to let the father see them.

She accused the father of abusive behaviour, but nine of the 10 allegations were unproven. At one court hearing, he admitted spitting at the mother on one occasion. A district judge who heard the case in 2009 noted that the father was a “forceful character” whom the mother found difficult to resist.

In February this year, the father was banned by a family judge from having any direct contact with his children, now nine and six. He was told he could send his daughters cards, letters and gifts once a month, but could not see them because it would be too distressing for their mother.

The county court judge said that she would be “unable to cope” with the father seeing the children after she broke down in court and said the thought of it made her feel “exhausted”. 

The father’s lawyers challenged the judge’s decision, saying it had been based on a “momentary” display of emotion from the mother in the witness box and the views of a “lone” psychologist, who supported her case. The decision also went against the view of the independent advocate appointed for the children. 

The appeal judges accepted that the father’s exile from his own children’s lives violated his rights.
Lord Justice McFarlane recognised that it was “a very big ask” for the mother to accept that her children’s best interests lay in having two parents, not just one.

“Where, however, it is plainly in the best interests of a child to spend time with the other parent then, tough or not, part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be,” he said.

The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Rix and Lord Justice Tomlinson, overturned the family judge’s order and directed the mother to “facilitate” contact. The process will take place under the supervision of a court-appointed guardian.

Reader Comments (2)

At least some members of the judiciary appear to be listening to our arguments.

Had the trial judge in this case had the guidance of a revised Children Act, stressing the crucial importance for the children of a shared parenting regime, perhaps she would have ruled differently, and perhaps these children would not have had to suffer the loss of their father for so long. Onward with the improvement to the Children Act, Mr Cameron!

Of some concern in this case, however, is the focus placed upon the father’s rights, rather than upon the children’s.

The paramount concern for the judiciary must always be the children’s rights and, specifically, their right to have a close and meaningful relationship with both their parents. The rights of a mother or father ought to be a far minor concern for the judiciary.

Nevertheless, this is a very good outcome for the children in this particular case.

Unfortunately, however, this is still not true for many other children caught up in the family justice system.

The so-called ‘distress argument’ of the ‘Primary Carer’ still takes precedence over the rights of children in other areas of family law.

In Relocation law, for example, hundreds of children continue to be removed overseas each year, in order to pander to the demands of the Primary Carer and to her claims of ‘distress’ if permission to relocate is refused. The need for children to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents is relegated.

Children are forced to leave behind their ‘Non-Primary Carer’ (dad), their extended family, their home, their school, their friends and their general way of life. The meaningful relationship they once enjoyed with their Non-Primary Carer is decimated. I speak from personal experience.

Sir Nicholas Wall needs finally to act upon the concerns he publicly raised two and a half years ago, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50.

Sir Nicholas: the time for procrastination is over.

Regards
Bruno D’Itri

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBruno D'Itri

At least some members of the judiciary appear to be listening to our arguments.

Had the trial judge in this case had the guidance of a revised Children Act, stressing the crucial importance for the children of a shared parenting regime, perhaps she would have ruled differently, and perhaps these children would not have had to suffer the loss of their father for so long. Onward with the improvement to the Children Act, Mr Cameron!

Of some concern in this case, however, is the focus placed upon the father’s rights, rather than upon the children’s.

The paramount concern for the judiciary must always be the children’s rights and, specifically, their right to have a close and meaningful relationship with both their parents. The rights of a mother or father ought to be a far minor concern for the judiciary.

Nevertheless, this is a very good outcome for the children in this particular case.

Unfortunately, however, this is still not true for many other children caught up in the family justice system.

The so-called ‘distress argument’ of the ‘Primary Carer’ still takes precedence over the rights of children in other areas of family law.

In Relocation law, for example, hundreds of children continue to be removed overseas each year, in order to pander to the demands of the Primary Carer and to her claims of ‘distress’ if permission to relocate is refused. The need for children to maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents is relegated.

Children are forced to leave behind their ‘Non-Primary Carer’ (dad), their extended family, their home, their school, their friends and their general way of life. The meaningful relationship they once enjoyed with their Non-Primary Carer is decimated. I speak from personal experience.

Sir Nicholas Wall needs finally to act upon the concerns he publicly raised two and a half years ago, in the case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50.

Sir Nicholas: the time for procrastination is over.

Regards
Bruno D’Itri

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBruno D'Itri

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