The mother of two boys has won a rehearing in the latest stage of a drawn-out custody dispute with their father.
Re K (Children) concerned brothers aged 14 and 12. Their parents had separated a decade earlier following a seven year marriage. The mother remarried in 2005. Since that time, the parents’ relationship had deteriorated into acrimony.
In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Ryder said:
“There has been litigation about the children before the county court, now the family court, for approximately 10 years.”
Between 2005 and 2009, under the terms of a contact order, the boys lived with the mother and her new partner, staying with the father on alternate weekends. There was the nno further overnight contact between the boys and their father until 2012, when a further contact order was made, reinstating the alternative weekend contact.
However, this arrangement again broke down the following January. The father did not see his sons again until March this year, when a further legal order again restored contact on alternating weekends. The new order also introduced a measure which would see residence transferred to the father on a temporary basis over the summer if the boys’ mother and stepfather did not allow the specified contact to take place.
But the new arrangements lasted barely a month before the situation deteriorated once again. The older boy was sent to live with his foster carers and the younger boy with his father.
Lord Justice Ryder explained:
“The young men were separated for the first time in their lives in the sense that they were separated from their day to day carers, their mother and her married partner, and also from each other. The judge suspended any contact between the boys and their mother for three weeks…”
“…the removal happened late at night with the police in attendance. The circumstances were distressing to all involved, including at least one professional….The removal was described by mother’s representatives as ‘violent’.”
In late May the brothers absconded from their father’s home for a period of time.
The mother appealed against both the contact order and the temporary transfer of residence to the father. The father, meanwhile, applied to enforce the orders.
The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the mother, saying the order had contained a number of legal errors, including a failure to fully consider the welfare of the boys, a failure to properly justify the removal, and a failure to properly consider the effects of removing the boys from each other.
The Lord Justices ordered the case be returned to the family courts for a further hearing. Meanwhile, the boys were to be returned to the care of their mother.
Read the full judgement here.
In February, a father won residence rights for his two sons after complaining that their mother had prevented him from seeing them.