A judge has criticised a mother for causing emotional harm to her son through her hostility to the father during court proceedings.
However, he decided against making an order granting the father contact.
The case involved a couple who had separated when their son was a year old. He is now seven and lives with his mother.
Relations between the parents were hostile and the boy was not having contact with his father, despite protracted litigation. The mother had made several allegations against the father and the boy expressed a clear wish not to see him.
The court had made unsuccessful attempts to facilitate contact by appointing an independent social worker and by directing the parents to attend therapeutic mediation. A child psychiatrist had recommended therapy for the child and counselling for the parents. However, the specialist clinic to which the boy was referred had indicated that therapy was not appropriate while proceedings were ongoing.
The boy’s guardian concluded that he was emotionally traumatised by the concept of contact. She indicated that the division between the parents was insurmountable, and she was not confident that anything would change, whichever parent the child lived with.
She recommended that the proceedings should conclude so that therapy for the boy could start. The judge found that the boy had been influenced by the mother’s hostility towards the father. He decided that prolonging the proceedings would do more harm than good and that nothing would be achieved by ordering contact.
The judge severely criticised the mother’s hostile behaviour towards the father and said she was causing emotional harm to her son. He concluded that the boy was unlikely to recover from the trauma he had suffered without therapy. He therefore ordered that both parents should co-operate in the referral of the boy to the specialist clinic together with such treatment as might be required. He made no order in respect of child arrangements but made directions in the event that the matter returned to court.
The father appealed saying that the judge had been wrong to end proceedings without making a child arrangement order.
However, the Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision saying he had taken the only course that stood the slightest chance of achieving what was needed, namely the resumption of the child’s relationship with his father.
The judge had been sensible in thinking that therapy might achieve what all previous interventions had failed to achieve and justified in deciding that it was the best way forward.
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 EWCA Civ 991
RE Q (A CHILD) (2015)
CA (Civ Div) (Sir James Munby PFD, Underhill LJ, Hildyard J) 29/09/2015