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Child Arrangements Orders blog

For the next in our series of blogs, Nicole Thornley from our Manchester based Family Team, talks about a recent case on Child Arrangements Orders which discusses implacable hostility and disharmony between parents and the implications on children.

RE D (A CHILD) 2015 EWCA Civ 8299

It is always a difficult time when parents separate. Children should be the priority but all too often they become involved and exposed to parental conflict which can be emotionally harmful. In this recent case the parents separated when the child was only a few months old. The parents were in Court proceedings by the child’s first birthday in 2010. Father was assessed by a psychiatrist who observed his uncontrollable anger and father agreed to undertake anger management and parenting classes. Whilst this was ongoing, interim contact was taking place with father having overnight contact in 2011. This was stopped in 2012 following an allegation that father had slapped the child. Contact again restarted but again stopped following an allegation that father had poked the child in the eye. The Local Authority investigated and closed the case as mother said she would stop all contact.

CAFCASS were asked to prepare a report and father was clear that the failure in contact was mother’s doing. When CAFCASS met the child it was noticed that the child exhibited extremely disturbing behaviour when father’s name was mentioned. The conclusion CAFCASS reached was that mother had not actively coached the child but the child was very troubled and had been emotionally harmed as a result of experiencing parents' acrimonious relationship. CAFCASS recommended no contact with father and this decision was upheld by the Judge. Father appealed stating that contact should not be prevented just because parents do not get on.

King LJ stressed that the inability of parents to behave in a civilised and cooperative manner towards each other is not in itself a reason to refuse contact. However, there are cases where the level of animosity between the parents and their consequent behaviour is such that it has a serious and deleterious effect on the child. The harm caused by this can legitimately lead a Judge, with the child’s welfare as the paramount concern, to conclude that contact cannot work.

If you or somebody you know is contemplating applying to Court to resolve the arrangements for children following separation, please contact one of our Family Team to advise and assist you.