Father wins residence order for his two sons

Children|Divorce|News | 11 Feb 2014 7

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A father has won a residence order for his two sons after complaining that their mother had been obstructing contact.

In RS v SS, an English man married a woman from an unspecified country in 1996. The first of their two sons, referred to as AB, was born in 1999, and the second, CD, in 2002, but the parents separated just six weeks after his birth.

Sitting in the Principal Registry of the Family Division, Judge Laura Harris noted:

“The father says that he formed a relationship with his present wife, whom the parties had both known before, about three months after the separation. The mother says that she believes that the relationship had already commenced before the separation. I make no findings on this issue, but observe that the mother appears to believe this, and this, together with the circumstances surrounding their separation when she had but recently given birth, have clearly been among the factors which, in my view, have led to the current difficulties.”

For a number of years, the father had only sporadic contact with his sons. The mother moved out of the country for a period, later returning.

By spring 2010, the mother was regularly refusing scheduled visits at the door by the mother, even after he had travelled some distance.

In July 2012, the father eventually applied for  his sons to come and live with him. Judge Harris noted:

“In summary, the application said he had never had regular contact; the mother had repeatedly breached court orders; she had used financial matters as a barrier to contact; her sons were under pressure from her and were afraid of standing up to her. From the boys return to England, the difficulties continued, and he was effectively only seeing the boys in their school holidays. He complained that the boys’ school attendance was poor. He had concerns about the mother’s mental health and what he saw as signs of manic depression. He referred in his application to verbal abuse, uncontrollable rage, erratic behaviour, and the mother often sleeping through the afternoon. He also expressed concern about neglect of dental and medical needs.”

The man’s application said:

“I am applying for a residence order because I can offer stability and that is the only way the boys will have a relationship with me.”

That same month, the mother threatened the father with an injunction after he contacted her to ask about contact over the summer holidays. She also left him a series of voicemails threatening to cut off contact and leave the country and saying he would need to pay years of allegedly backdated child maintenance if he wanted to see them. These voicemails were played in court.

The mother also reportedly behaved in an overtly hostile manner towards the father at parents’ evenings.

But the mother denied many of the father’s claims, insisting that “she had always promoted contact and she had done everything to get contact going since the children were little.” She admitted to occasional anger but denied staying in bed for long periods, saying “it was in her culture to have a siesta.”

In a detailed judgement, Judge Harris considered the extensive available evidence and differing accounts. She concluded:

“I found the father to be an honest witness, and, where the parents’ evidence differed, I undoubtedly preferred his evidence to that of the mother. His frustration and distress at this long-standing situation were palpable during his oral evidence. He has been tenacious to the extent of being dogged in his pursuit of a relationship with his sons. I do not criticise him for his tenacity. Many fathers would have given up by now. He has, in my view, demonstrated far better insight into the needs of his teenage and pre-teenage boys, for example, around issues of guidance and boundaries, than the mother.”

By contrast, the mother was “a very angry and wilful woman. Her hated of the father is almost pathological.” She made claims about unpaid maintenance and funds from the sale of the former matrimonial home.

The mother had, the judged claimed: “prioritised her own needs and feelings at the expense of the needs of her children. That is not to say that she does not love her children, I have no doubt her does.”.

Judge Harris concluded:

“I am fully aware that this judgment must have been extremely painful to the mother and I have been extremely critical of her. She must understand that my primary concern is the interests of her boys….I am therefore quite satisfied that it is in these boys’ interests and their welfare requires me to transfer residence to the father, and I make an order varying the residence order in his favour.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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Comments(7)

  1. Luke says:

    I was amazed that a father actually got a change of residency and so read the case from the link.

    I now understand why, there is plenty of evidence that the mother has acted like a complete and utter basket-case and with the school offering evidence that the attendance and homework completion by the children was totally unsatisfactory the mother appears to be an extremely bad parent.

    So the court had no rational choice but to overturn the residency here, this extreme level of bad parenting combined with such solid evidence must I think be very rare.

    The only caveat I have to all this is the child maintenance and whether the father was paying it – that was not substantiated – and if he wasn’t I think that is a huge mitigating factor. Still, even with this, if the mother is not getting the children to attend school properly the court had few options.

  2. Tristan says:

    Finally, the penny drops.

    By 2014, there ought to be have hundreds of thousands of judgments like this one. Why has it taken judges this long?

    As well as offering stability and a better standard of living, decent fathers (and there are zillions of them) provide proper boundaries, impart self-discipline and, crucially, are far, far more amenable to involving the mother in a meaningful relationship with the children. It’s not rocket science.

  3. Luke says:

    “By 2014, there ought to be have hundreds of thousands of judgments like this one. Why has it taken judges this long?”
    ======================

    Hmmmm…. I’m unconvinced – I think this will be one of those exceptions.

  4. Tristan says:

    What explains the judicial policy that lies behind the routine awarding of residency orders to mothers? Because judicial policy it must be. There is nothing intrinsic to mothers that I know of, which makes them more suitable as principal carer. So why is it then, that it’s nearly always “mum” who gets awarded the PWC label?

    I think we should be told.

  5. Aerfen says:

    In this instance the judge may have been right, but it is bigoted stereotyping to claim that only fathers offer:
    “stability and a better standard of living” ,
    ” provide proper boundaries, impart self-discipline”
    “and are far, far more amenable to involving the mother in a meaningful relationship with the children”

    Mothers even when they work full time usually spend more time in child care and interacting with their children than fathers. Decent mothers (and there are zillions of them) do ALL of those things mentioned above , walk out on their children less frequently than fathers and are far more likely to continue to put their children’s needs first if and when they find a new partner, not to mention the fact that most children prefer to live with their mothers..

    The case above was an extreme one but should not change the current policy of the default residential parent being the mother.

    • Nordic says:

      Aarfan. Seems to me you are guilty of exactly the same bigoted stereotyping you accuse the judge of. I think the only reasonable assumption is that there are as many good fathers as there are good mothers (so, zillions). Likewise, there are as many bad fathers as there are bad mothers. As a Nordic (where gender equality has been taken much further) I find these constant attempts to categorise mums and dads into good and bad bizarre and very damaging.

  6. Amanda says:

    Nordic, Tristan I guess that’s why it’s mostly men that can be found in the pub after work and in the evenings, rather than with the family? Just my experience.
    I’m not bias as regards opinion, as my brother was awarded custody of his daughter, she was being neglected and it took over a year for the judgement.
    It’s presumed, regarding residency, that prior to separation, the mother has been the principal carer and in the majority of cases this is true. Usually the father earns more due to inequality in the wage system, therefore the lesser earner gives up their job.
    As regards to residency with principal carer, the child retains stability etc..if this has not been the case, the father has the burden to prove this-(alternative family law, London).
    I’d ask you this, who would you say you are closest to as an adult with parents?
    who would you go to for emotional support, advise, etc.. As an adult with parents?
    Which parent went out most often, socially? Therefore who was Your principal carer?

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