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P (A Child)  EWCA Civ 1428 (Court of Appeal)
I represented father in this lengthy child care dispute surrounding his daughter, which eventually concluded in the Court of Appeal in late November 2015, and was recorded in the Law Reports this year.
The child’s parents in this case had met whilst the father was visiting China for work. His wife, referred to as ‘YP’ in the judgment, remained in the UK. During his visit, they began an affair and the woman fell pregnant. The man then confessed to his wife and the three of them agreed that the child, ‘H’, would come back to the UK with her father and be raised here by him and his wife, the infant’s stepmother. The journey to England took place when the girl was nine weeks old, in July 2014.
Before the arrangement was reached, the trio had discussed an abortion, and YP’s alleged support for this option led to a rapid deterioration in the relationship between her and the biological mother, deterioration which eventually became “visceral hatred” in the words of the Judge. The birth mother sent a great many “abusive” emails criticising the YP’s care of H and opposing plans to give YP parental responsibility for H.
Meanwhile, the natural mother discussed the possibility of bringing the child back out to China for a visit but insisted that YP could not come on the trip, despite the fact that she and H had not been apart since she H first been brought to England.
The natural mother’s dislike of YP and her opposition to the latter being given parental responsibility led to the intervention of Cafcass, who interviewed the father and YP in response to various angry allegations by the natural mother.
The officer reported that H was receiving excellent care with her father and YP, concluding that the natural mother had overreacted to statements by HP during her pregnancy.
During a video conference before Mr Justice Keehan, the natural mother said she would only abandon her application for the return of H if her contact demands were met, and made abusive comments about both the father and YP, insisting that she would make her hatred of YP clear to H as she grew up. In addition:
“…she made a threat in open court to kill the step mother and said that she would attack her if she saw her.”
The natural mother subsequently sent further threatening messages to the father and YP, complaining as well about the Judge, the Cafcass officer and BTTJ LLP.
Unsurprisingly, the father and the Cafcass both concluded that the direct contact with her mother was no longer in H’s best interests, in the light of both “the direct threats to kill the step mother, but also the endless, irrational, offensive and threatening emails”.
Mr Justice Keehan made a child arrangements order endorsing this conclusion, limiting contact to indirect methods. The birth mother appealed, arguing that the Judge had not properly set out his reasons in a relatively brief judgement, but this claim was rejected.
In the Appeal Lady Justice King noted:
“The issue before the trial became whether, as a consequence only of the mother’s behaviour over the previous months, culminating in a direct threat to kill the child’s psychological [step] mother made in front of the judge, it now became necessary for the court to draw back from what would otherwise have been the appropriate and common place outcome of a case of this nature, namely an order providing for such direct contact as could reasonably be accommodated given that the parties live on different continents.
She therefore declared the earlier ruling was fully justified.
The full judgment for this case can be found using the link below.
This was a rare case where the natural mother was refused direct contact with the child. Usually I assist with negotiating contact between parent and child whilst ensuring the children’s needs are met at all times.
I have experience of dealing with very complex international disputes, including relocations to and from Hague Convention and Non-Hague Convention countries. I have also dealt with applications regarding change of schools, children’s surnames and change of religion.
Should you need us to assist with any aspects of children law, whether involving domestic disputes or international matters, please call us on 02476 531532.