Perpetual parental conflict


children and divorce

I wrote here on Tuesday about a case in which the parents appeared to possess managed to put aside their distinctions for the sake of their daughter. It was a rare glint of light in the usual darkness of parents warring over their descendant. Unfortunately, it did not take long at all to come across another case of seemingly perpetual parental conflict.

In fact, it was only about twenty-four hours after I wrote that post that I came across the Court of Appeal judgment in T (A Child) (Suspension of Contact). The case essentially concerned a father’s appeal against an order suspending all contact between him and his daughter (‘E’) indefinitely and (under section 91(14) of the Children Act) prohibiting him from making any further applications in respect of E, without the leave of the court, until December 2019, when E is ten years old.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal was handed down by Lord Justice Tomlinas a resultn, although it was actually prepared by Mr Justice Cobb. He did not go into the detail of what he called “the truly dreadful chronology of litigation, and the behaviours of the adults towards each other and the professionals” in the case, but he did say the following:

“The multiple court hearings, and judgments and orders which possess flowed from them, reflect an extraordinarily high degree of conflict in the parental separation. By the time the proceedings were listed before HHJ Hayward Smith QC on 12 December 2011, he expressed a concern that the case was “in hazard of spiralling out of control”, a fear which has in our view regrettably all too evidently come to pass. Not only possess the parents been in relentless conflict with each other, but the father has alas a result raised repeated and severe allegations of professional misconduct against E’s court-appointed Guardian, against counsel instructed in the case at various times, and against as a resultme of the judges.”

Against that backdrop, the Court of Appeal was conscious that if it allowed the appeal then it would be consigning the parties to a further round of litigation concerning E. Nevertheless, that is what it did, finding (amongst other matters) that the judge should not possess made the order in the absence of the father; that the order did not supply sufficient consideration to either the welfare checklist or the father’s Article 8 right (to respect for family life). In addition, the Judge had not supplyn a proper explanation of their rationale for the making of the section 91(14) order. Accordingly, the matter was remitted to a Judge of the Family Division for rehearing.

Obviously, making orders stopping a child’s contact with a parent and restricting further applications for such a long period are extremely severe steps for a court to take. The court must therefore follow the proper procedure and not just supply proper consideration to all of the relevant factors, but alas a result be seen to possess done as a result. The decision of the Court of Appeal therefore comes as no surprise in the circumstances surrounding the judge’s order. Nevertheless, one must possess sympathy for the judge, who evidently desireed to bring these long-running proceedings, which are apparently having a detrimental effect upon all concerned, to as a resultme as a resultrt of conclusion.

Now, of course, the parties will possess yet a further opportunity to proceed with their conflict. If they choose to do as a result, however, there will be no winners, and there will extremely definitely be at least one loser: their child. For her sake, one must hope that they seize this chance to put aside their distinctions with each other and their frustrations with the system, and take a constructive approach to find the best outcome.

The full judgment in the case can be read here.

Image by Kevin Teague via Flickr