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Obsessive mother fails in appeal against order barring court action

By 28 March 2022News

A mother who conducted an obsessive campaign against the father of her six year-old daughter has failed in an appeal against an order barring her from other court action for two whole years.

A medical doctor from Hungary, with three children from earlier relationships, she met the father met in 2013. In 2015 a daughter, referred to in the Court of Appeal judgement as ‘A’, was born. In 2017 the mother travelled back to Hungary for an extended visit, leaving A and her three older children in the care of A’s father. Six months later, she returned to the UK and announced that she planned to permanently relocate to Hungary, with all four children.

The father responded by making an immediate application for a ‘prohibited steps’ order but the couple quickly reconciled. A prohibited steps order is a legal order forbidding a person from taking certain actions.

Further problems occurred in 2018. The father agreed to let the mother take A to Hungary for medical treatment, while he was left in charge of her three older children. But she did not travel back with A at the agreed time and instead announced that the relationship was over. Eventually he launched proceeding under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This multinational agreement provides a legal framework for the return of children who are taken to or kept in other countries by one parent without the consent of the other.

However, around the same time, the mother brought A back to the UK without her father’s knowledge, then applied for a child arrangements order: a court order setting out the living arrangements for the child of separated or divorced parents. In her application she stated that she would be giving he father just one hour a week with A, to be supervised by her. The mother then relocated to Northern Ireland and the father only discovered she had done so when a contact centre in the province got in touch. He informed the court and she was ordered to bring A back to England and surrender the child’s passport. The mother failed to do either.

Concern for A’s welfare grew and a court-appointed legal guardian was appointed. Following lengthy and “destructive” court proceedings, the guardian eventually intervened and applied for ‘transfer of residence’. This rarely issued legal order states that a child or children should be moved from one parent’s home to that of the other. Residence is the legal term for the place a child lives on a day-to-day basis. The order was granted, the mother unsuccessfully appealed and A has lived with her father ever since. The Hungarian doctor is only allowed supervised time with her daughter.

In the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice King noted that:

“At a finding of fact hearing in October 2019, the judge held that the mother had deliberately placed barriers in the way of the father having a natural relationship with A by taking planned and covert steps to relocate some distance from [him].”

The mother subsequently made multiple entirely unfounded allegations – firstly against the father. She accused him of sexual abuse, at one point allowing a police officer to intervene in a scheduled phone call with her daughter. When her many claims were dismissed due to a lack of any evidence, she then then turned on the court-appointed psychologist, paediatrician and guardian, as well as various lawyers involved the ongoing case. There was a “deluge of email correspondence” according to Lady Justice King.

“By the time the matter came on for trial, the papers in what should have been a straightforward child arrangements dispute, ran to six lever arch files.”

A psychologist diagnosed the Hungarian doctor with a “personality disturbance”. Despite the disruptive effects of her obsessive behaviour on her children, she was resistant to therapy and “highly unlikely to engage in therapeutic intervention aimed at helping her to address her personality issues”. But therapeutic treatment was the only way for a reduction in supervision during the time she spent with A to be contemplated.

A’s legal guardian also stressed the importance of continuing supervision, saying “direct unsupervised contact would be much more damaging than not having any face to face contact.”

The Judge accepted these findings, ordering “professionally supervised contact with the mother for 6 hours every other weekend.” Both parties were barred, under section s.91(14) of the Children Act 1989, from making any further legal applications without court permission for a period of two years.

The ruling noted the “huge impact” the mother’s multiple complaints about the father had had on him. In one eight-week period he received 80 emails from her, all criticising his care of A. Despite all this he had still “done all he could to promote contact” between A and her mother.

The mother continued to make various disruptive allegations during the court proceedings , noted Lady Justice King, even alleging the psychiatrist had “falsified her report”.

“This mother, who is herself a doctor, must of all people be aware of just how serious it is to make such a complaint, and the disinhibited way in which she made it serves only to confirm the judge’s fears as to the future conduct of the mother.”

The mother was granted a limited right to appeal against the issue of the s.91(14) order. This had been inserted into the Children Act to prevent abusive parents from repeatedly dragging their former partners back into court. The mother argued this order was incompatible with the long-term goal of unsupervised contact with A.

But the Court of Appeal was not convinced. Lady Justice King described the claim that the barring order might act as “some sort of fetter designed to prevent supervised contact progressing to unsupervised contact” as “without merit”.

She continued:

“Every case must turn on its own unique facts but what has to be borne in mind is that …The orders made by this judge far from acting as a fetter on the establishment of a more natural relationship, facilitate contact in circumstances where absent supervision, A’s welfare would have necessitated indirect contact only.”

Read the full ruling here