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Mother who lost custody of her children fails in legal bid

A mother who lost custody of her children in a dramatic High Court ruling last year has failed in a bid to appeal the decision.

In Re H (Children), a family’s eldest child, now aged 15 had a history of violent behaviour and was arrested after damaging the family home in January last year. Shortly afterwards, the wife left the family home without warning and went to live with a woman’s refuge, taking the two youngest children with her,  The older boy joined them there.

The mother alleged that the father had been violent and abusive towards various members of the family while he applied for contact. But at a High Court hearing last December, the case went against the mother.

After considering evidence suggesting that the mother had emotionally manipulated her children, Mrs Justice Parker declared:

“…not all allegations of domestic violence and abuse are true and at the end of a stormy and difficult marriage as this has been between the parents of the children, it is very easy for parents to re-write history in their own minds.”

She noted the extent to which the 15 year-old boy had become the mother’s “knight in shining armour”. He had attempted to persuade his younger siblings to refuse contact with their father.

She issued a residence order stating that care of the two younger children should be transferred to the father, while the older boy should go and live with his grandmother once.

In her judgement Mrs Justice Parker criticised feuding parents.

“Parents who obstruct the relationship with either mother or father are inflicting untold damage on their children and it’s about time the professionals truly understood this. I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful. “

The mother was granted weekly, supervised contact with her children only. She applied for permission to appeal, arguing, amongst other grounds, that the immediate change of residence ordered by the judge had not been justified and that the judge had failed to adequately explain the reasons for her ruling.

But Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice McFarlane dismissed the application, declaring:

“…it is, in my view, simply not possible to categorise the judge’s order changing residence as being wrong or disproportionate to the circumstances of these young people as she found them to be.”

He continued:

“An immediate change of the primary residence of children during the course of ongoing court proceedings, where further assessment has been ordered, must be supported by evidence which establishes that such an interventionist step is proportionate to the need to safeguard the children’s welfare on an interim basis. I am satisfied that the judge approached her decision on that basis.”

Read the full judgement here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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