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John Bolch on the judge who said “It’s all about respect”

I wanted to say something about the judgment of Mrs Justice Pauffley in Re L And M (Children: Private Law). Well, not so much about the judgment itself, in the sense of the decision that she made in the case. Rather, I wanted to point out what she said at the beginning and at the end of the judgment.

First, just a little background to the case. The parents married in 2000 and have two children, a boy who is nearly 13 years old and a girl aged 9. In 2004 the family moved to the father’s home country of Israel. The marriage broke down and the parents finally separated in 2007. It was eventually agreed in January 2010 that the mother and children would relocate to England, the mother’s home country.

It was also agreed that the father would have extensive indirect contact with the children, as well as staying contact on three occasions each year in Israel. In fact, very little contact took place and early in 2012 the father issued proceedings, seeking to re-establish a relationship with the children, including direct contact.

In November 2012 the court made a direction for family assessment by a consultant family therapist. His report of the 1st of March 2013 recommended a ‘coordinated therapeutic programme’, and in May 2013 Mrs Justice Pauffley agreed to a course of counselling and therapy as suggested by the parties. In the event, this did not go ahead, due to lack of funds.

The matter eventually came before Mrs Justice Pauffley for hearing on the 24th to 26th of March this year. She began her judgment with the following:

“There were several good reasons for arranging a three day hearing in these private law proceedings. First, to determine why, over so many years, there have been problems in achieving good quality or indeed any contact between the children and their father. Second, to establish whether there is a feasible way through the apparent deadlock between the two conflicting sides. And third to consider whether the time is right to make final orders so as to bring the litigation to a decisive end.”

These days there seems to be increasingly an assumption that court proceedings are always a bad thing: everything must be done to resolve the matter out of court. However, this is not always the best way forward. Sometimes, the best way to make real progress is for the court to take a grip of the matter and speed it towards a conclusion.

That was the situation here. To explain, I will quote the next three paragraphs of the judgment in full:

“When the case began, there was no proper basis for knowing how it would end. I had no preconceptions. As so often happens, clarity came as the case unfolded particularly when, over several hours, the parents gave their evidence. By the end of the process, it had become very straightforward indeed to identify the origins of the problems. In the result, there is no difficulty either in formulating welfare decisions for the children.

“My only regret is that for what appeared to be justifiable reasons at the time, this hearing was not convened about a year ago, in the spring of 2013. The impact of the delay from the children’s perspective has been to protract an already onerous process almost beyond endurance. All I can say is that, with the benefit of hindsight, I should not have been enticed towards the model of therapeutic assessment and possible treatment. I should have set the matter down for hearing rather than pursue a process which would have been most unlikely to result in any kind of success within a timescale that was remotely acceptable from the children’s perspective.

“The issue as to the orders which should be made at the end of the hearing is relatively narrow. It is as to whether the proceedings should be brought to an end by the making of an order for only indirect contact; or, instead, continued with provision for there to be a ‘family meeting’ within a psychotherapeutic setting. In order to answer that question it has been altogether necessary to develop a good understanding of the reasons for the current as well as past difficulties.”

As may be expected from this, Mrs Justice Pauffley rejected the idea of a therapeutic family meeting. Instead, she made a final order providing that the father have indirect contact only with the children, by way of occasional cards, letters and presents.

However, she did not end her judgment there. Looking to the future, she said:

“The task now for the adults … is to seek to make progress in restoring some kind of relationship between the children and their father, albeit at a distance. There are several small acts of kindness which the father may wish to consider. He could provide the mother with occasional financial assistance for the children enabling her to purchase items she would otherwise struggle to afford. He could send the mother messages wishing her happiness at the times of Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Succot, Hannukkah and Passover. It should be straightforward for some dialogue to begin between them centred upon the children’s achievements.”

She concluded with this excellent sentiment:

“It is all about respect; and a willingness to start again in the process of trying to interact as parents in a way which will enhance rather than harm their children. I wish them every success in that endeavour.”

So do I.

Photo by  Michael 1952 under a Creative Commons licence

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    The father must be over the moon and ever so grateful to the suggestion from the judge that despite him not being allowed any direct contact with his children, he is allowed “several small acts of kindness which the father may wish to consider. He could provide the mother with occasional financial assistance for the children enabling her to purchase items she would otherwise struggle to afford. He could send the mother messages wishing her happiness at the times of Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah, Succot, Hannukkah and Passover.”

    • Stitchedup says:

      And what acts of kindness might the mother do in return?? Did Mrs Justice Pauffley touch on this by any chance?? or is it just another case of give her some money and you might just be able to buy yourself some contact???

      • Stitchedup says:

        “6.Macur J (as she then was) found the father to be “impulsive, highly emotional and hot-headed with little self restraint…unreliable in his evidence in that he denies, mitigates or otherwise seeks to excuse various incidents of domestic violence. ” She also found that his evidence on other issues was “largely credible and supported by extraneous facts and documents.” Macur J found the mother “was demonstrably willing to obfuscate, lie and manipulate the evidence to her own ends; sufficiently intelligent to ‘see what was coming’ and ameliorate her response accordingly. In that she did so … it was an act of desperation with a view to maintaining the status quo and does not or should not necessarily mark her evidence on all matters as unreliable in future proceedings.””

        End result, all the criticism of the mother is dismissed and all the criticism of the father with regard to DV is taken as gospel despite his “his evidence on other issues was “largely credible and supported by extraneous facts and documents.””

        That said,, he did fold his arms in a “defensive” manner when being questioned and used capitals in his messages…. ?!?%*?

        It’s hardly surprising men fold their arms when they have to listen to some of the nonsense accusations that get thrown their way in the family courts, often just to construct the golden bullet of DV allegations. It’s not so much a defensive gesture as “I really haven’t got time for this BS” gesture, or “have I really got to listen to this c$%p ??”.

        The good old DV allegation… always a winner!!!

    • Tim Lagi says:

      This judge is absolutely RUTHLESS.
      No regard for the Father at all.

      When will this DISCRIMINATION OF FATHERS END?????

  2. Paul says:

    If people wonder why so many fathers simply walk away from their children, they ought to read this case.

    • Stitchedup says:

      Reading the case is depressing for any man that has been through the system. The same old tripe, pre-fabricated templates applied slapdash.

      There are several aspects that concern me particularly the way the father is practically demonised because he “is a natural extrovert. He feels things passionately and expresses himself with great emotion”. What if he was a quivering pathetic wreck…. what would he nave been accused of then??

      If a man defends himself robustly and denies allegations of domestic violence he is considered unreliable in his evidence and in denial. The judgement doesn’t mention any evidence/proof for the domestic violence…. is it just another case of the mother saying so??? Does a man really have any practical defence against an allegation of domestic violence??? How does he prove a negative??

      I also suspect there may be some cultural issues at play here – “His unduly pressured message accompanying an Amazon present, “To my beautiful daughter M. Praying every day that God Almighty will allow us to be together very soon.”” – The father is not British, I take it he is an Israeli Jew who may be very religious, hence the wording of his message may be considered normal to him. Perhaps as English is not his natural tongue he hasn’t realised that it may interpreted as an “unduly pressured message”.

      The petty psychoanalysis of a man just because he folded his arms when questioned and wrote in capitals… when will these people get a life???

  3. Luke says:

    The Judge’s statements are quite beyond belief – totally unrealistic and stupid. The father gets ZERO direct contact with his children and yet the Judge thinks he should be giving his ex-spouse extra money and best wishes ! Who but a masochist would do that ?

    I am waiting for the Judge to say his ex-spouse can punch him in the face and that he should consider sending her a thank-you note for the punch 🙂

    • Stitchedup says:

      I also think the father’s personality traits are being unfairly used against him. Form what I gather he’s intelligent, very good at maths and languages. It’s not unusual for intelligent, scientific/engineering types to not have much time for behaviour that appears irrational, illogical, over emotional; or for baseless allegations and/or assertions… perhaps the father fits this profile.

      However, when faced with constant or frequent illogical, irrational, overemotional behaviour and baseless allegations and/or assertions; even a person with the traits described may eventually loose their patience and show their annoyance… this doesn’t mean they are bad. The stakes are incredibly high, the man is fighting to maintain meaningful contact with his children who he loves dearly, he is entitled to show some annoyance/emotion when faced with false allegations and baseless assertions.

  4. Anon1 says:

    I suppose the moral of the judgement is that the father should buy the love of his children through bribing the ex-wife. I have heard what is expected of the father however what concessions are expected of the mother?

  5. Yvie says:

    Makes me think there is something in the Fathers for Justice mantra that separated dads are sperm banks and cash machines.

  6. Best says:

    I had a terrible experience in the Family Courts, UNTIL I was able to have the judge hearing my case recuse himself., the appointed Judge was Mrs. Justice Pauffley, whom demonstrated a level of common sense, knowledge of the law, and an innate belief that the welfare of the child(ren) REALLY is of paramount importance.

    Mrs Justice Pauffley was completely unbiased, totally focused and I would trust her with th welfare of my children, any time.

    As a father I had experienced first hand the in-built bias towards the mother that the entire circus supports, in my case I was awarded sole residence orders of my three children.

    The system takes far too long and should be treated like an A & E emergency rather than a 3 year treatment program.

    Mrs Justice Pauffley is a credit to the Family Courts.

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