The High Court has granted a father the right to see his daughter eight times a year, after a court order forbidding him from applying for more contact expired.
Re G concerned the parents of a 13 year-old girl who had split acrimoniously before she was born. For the first six years of her life her parents returned regularly to court to argue over contact and the proceedings eventually became intractable. At that point a Cafcass officer was appointed as the girl’s legal guardian.
The father saw his daughter regularly but the frequency of the visits gradually declined. A psychiatrist decided that the father had developed a near obsession with his daughter and also said he experienced mood swings and could be aggressive at times. A legal order was granted giving him the right to see the girl three times a year but he was also not allowed to contact his daughter’s school or her GP, or to go within four miles of the mother’s home.
Then a ‘section 91 (14)’ order was issued against him. Issued under the Children Act 1989, these prohibit legal applications regarding the affected children, for example for more contact, without the prior approval of the court.
The section 91 (14) order ran for a period of six years. The day after it expired, the father wrote to the girl’s mother to discuss the arrangements in place for contact, but she accused him of harassing and manipulating their daughter. The mother had not told the girl about the legal quarrels between her parents and she did not know why she only saw her father occasionally.
The father went to court to argue that contact arrangements should be reviewed now that the section 91 (14) order had expired.
At the High Court, a case worker from the National Youth Advocacy Service said the father “lacked insight” into why contact had been restricted to three times a year and said there was still a possibility that the father might try to manipulate his now teenage daughter. On the other hand, the girl was interested in seeing her father more frequently.
Judge Bellamy considered the practicality of an order for more contact. He concluded that the child’s clearly expressed wishes should be taken into consideration, given her age and understanding of the situation. He increased contact to eight times per year, but also put in place a new section 91 (14) order, which would stay in place until the girl turned 16.