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Court of Appeal denies mother’s bid to have daughter returned

The Court of Appeal has denied a mother’s bid to have her daughter returned from care.

In W (A Child), the court heard the mother’s appeal against a finding of fact which led to her daughter’s immediate removal from her care.

A finding of fact is a court hearing where a judge must decide on the balance of probability whether or not certain events took place based on evidence and witness testimonies.

In the original hearing, the mother made several serious allegations against the child’s father which the judge ruled were false.

The allegations included claims that the father had been sexually inappropriate with the child, that the child was afraid of him and that domestic violence had occurred upon their separation.

The original judge also ruled that the mother had been deliberately trying to sabotage any relationship between the father and daughter.

She had also encouraged the child to make false allegations against her father in order to foster an unhealthy attitude towards him, despite the child “being a daughter who delights in seeing her father”.

The original judge concluded by ordering that, as a consequence, the threshold had been passed and the daughter should be taken into care. She “had suffered significant emotional harm in her mother’s care” and “her psychological safety required her immediate removal”, he said.

The mother appealed the removal, claiming she was not permitted to seek out other possible carers before the order and that she did not have effective notice of the original judge’s intention.

Lord Justice Ryder said that the original judge had, in fact, warned the mother prior to the hearing that should her accusations turn out to be false, it could result in the child’s removal from her care.

According to Lord Justice Ryder, “[t]hese observations were repeated by the judge more than once during the fact finding hearing”.

He added:

“I cannot accept that the mother would have been in any doubt about what the judge was able to do and indeed what he proposed to do if the facts were found against the mother and absent any submissions as to other alternatives.”

As for the mother’s claim that she was unable to seek other possible carers for her daughter, the judge was equally dismissive, saying she had plenty of opportunities, and even requested the child be placed in the care of the mother’s sister.

He went on to say that due to the distress the child had suffered as a result of her mother’s actions, an immediate move to her father’s care was not possible. Nor was placing her with the maternal family considering “the mother’s discussions with them that the father was a paedophile”.

Lord Justice Ryder supported the original decision, saying that temporary foster care was indeed the best option for the child’s wellbeing.

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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