A couple caught up in an acrimonious divorce exposed their children to emotional damage in their efforts to hurt each other, a judge has claimed.
In a hearing held at the Family Court in Nottingham, His Honour Judge Jeremy Lea considered care proceedings launched by the local county council. The case concerned the four children of a married couple referred to as ‘AA’ and ‘BB’. They married in 1998. The father, eight years older than the mother, had been married before and a daughter from that relationship.
His second marriage quickly ran into problems when he began seeing a former girlfriend and had a brief relationship with a 17 year-old. The mother left and the “intelligent, well-educated and well-heeled” couple were only reconciled some months later.
Their four children are now aged between five and 12.
The mother eventually filed for divorce in January of this year, after 16 years with the father, accusing the father of arrogance. The mother had had a brief affair with a landscape gardener and the judge said the father’s pride had been damaged as a result.
Following their split, the couple went on to argue about who should have the children. Before long the parents were “at war” said the judge, and their children had become “the weapons of choice for the parents.” Anyone who heard the evidence would be “rightly appalled”. The parents had “failed to protect their children from the damaging emotional consequences that can beset them as the children of separated parents.”
Judge Lea was especially critical of the father’s behaviour, whose “efforts to hurt the mother” had been “some of the most damagingly abusive that I have encountered.”
He had told the couple’s daughter about the mother’s affair and had frequently discussed the ongoing legal proceedings with the children in breach of a court order.
On one occasion the father had encouraged his wife to drive to a Chinese takeaway restaurant with their five year-old daughter, knowing that she had drunk lager. He then informed the police that he thought his wife was drink-driving. She was breathalysed but found not be over the limit.
The father had been “quite proud” of the incident, the judge claimed.
Meanwhile, the mother had recorded conversations between the children and the father and then told them she knew what they had been saying. She had also threatened the couple’s 12 year-old daughter with being taken into care and like the father had discussed details of the court proceedings with the children.
Nottinghamshire County Council launched care proceedings after becoming concerned about the children’s welfare.
As a result of the parents’ behaviour, said the Judge, the children had suffered “emotional abuse” and the mother and father and failed to protect their children from this harm.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo of Nottingham by Adam Clarke via Flickr