A father has failed in his bid to withdraw from a child maintenance agreement after his former partner discussed him in a magazine interview.
In TW v PL, a woman, called ‘TW’ in the judgement, was the mother of 18 month-old baby ‘NW’. The man, ‘PL’, initially denied that he was NW’s father, before a DNA test confirmed his paternity.
Following the test, the mother applied for child maintenance under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, which governs ‘financial provision for children’. The father initially planned to contest her application in court but shortly before the scheduled court hearing they reached an agreement. PL would pay £1,600 a month in child maintenance. He had a draft agreement drawn up by a solicitor and she signed this.
Not long afterwards, however, the mother gave an interview to a “popular magazine”, discussing PL and his attitude to his daughter.
The man was very unhappy with this and promptly applied to withdraw his consent to the maintenance agreement, saying the interview had breached undertakings which were due to feature in that agreement.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan said:
“It may well be that the mother was misguided, to put it mildly, into giving that interview to the magazine and making reference to PL when she was fully aware of the terms of the undertaking that were comprised in the agreement.”
However, he noted, the agreement had –at that point –been neither signed by the father nor been made into a court order.
“Accordingly, there is no question of any formal breach of those undertakings having been made by the mother.”
The maintenance agreement had fundamentally been about financial provision for the baby and, in spite of the interview, there was nothing to suggest the father would suffer any injustice if the agreement was allowed to stand.
“Accordingly, the father has no grounds for seeking to renege on the agreement concluded between the parties having had the benefit of solicitors and experts and advice.”
The judge ordered that the agreement be made into a court order, but added:
“I do so not without some sympathy for the father in relation to the antics of the mother. She must fully understand this agreement now having been made a court order, those undertakings that she has given are binding upon her and are enforceable and if in further course a court finds that she is in breach of one or more of those undertakings, then she exposes herself and will be liable to punishment.”