Children should spend time with alienated father court rules

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A mother who had pressured her children into rejecting their father must allow them to build a healthy relationship, a family court judge has ruled.

During a High Court session in Brighton, His Honour Judge Bedford noted that disputes between the parents dated back many years.

“The two children in this case have been the subject of litigation, on and off, for much of their lives, one child being aged 11 years and 5 months and the other children being 10 years and one month. “

He explained:

“Fortunately for the children, contact took place on a regular basis following the conclusion of  litigation in 2011 though I am satisfied that, behind the scenes, the mother continued to undermine the father’s exercising of parental responsibility including doing so by having unilateral contact with the schools concerned and, indeed, arranging therapy, without consultation with the father.”

‘Parental responsibility’ refers to the legal rights and duties associated with being a parent. The situation eventually deteriorated and the father returned to court seeking a “change of residence” in which the children would come to live with him. He made multiple claims about the mother’s behaviour, including that she had:

“… alienated the children from the father as a result of having either consciously, or subconsciously, encouraged and placed emotional pressure on the boys to present as not wishing to have contact with the father.”

The claim continued:

Further, [the mother] has overtly encouraged them to assert and believe that they do not have a good time with their father in order to further her cause to remove the father from their lives and she unilaterally suspended contact, between the children and their father, without applying to the Court to suspend or vary the order and has deliberately not supported, or promoted, the reintroduction of contact.  This has caused the boys emotional harm.”

The mother denied the claims, insisting that the father has:

“…continued to show animosity towards her, has continued to decline to discuss the issues, mediate with her and reach a mutually acceptable outcome with her in the interests of the children, has continued to seek to get his own way, and has continued to threaten her and continued to mispresent facts.’

Judge Bedford concluded that the father was the more credible witness:

“The father gave evidence.  His case had been set out comprehensively in the schedule of findings sought.  That schedule takes me to many references, within the documentation, which support the father’s overall contention that the mother has sought to minimise his role in the life of the boys…  He had already filed detailed witness statements which support his basic contention and, also, his request that the children should live with him in the future.  His evidence‑in‑chief was clear and measured.”

He granted the father’s request for a change of residence, but suspended enforcement of this, to give the mother one last chance to allow the children to form an uninterrupted bond with their father.

“These …children deserve to have some peace during the remainder of their respective childhoods.  They have a father and step‑mother and half‑sibling with whom they can live peacefully and who will promote their contact with their mother.  That might have to be the ultimate outcome in this case.  However, I hope that the mother will take this final opportunity to embrace the prospect of sharing parental responsibility for her children, sharing decisions about their upbringing and sharing their time in a way for which they will ultimately thank her, rather than being highly questioning of her.”

You can read the full ruling here.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this decision please contact Tricia, Gail, Adam, Jeremy or Simon on 01223 443333.