The mother of two teenage girls should do more to repair their relationship with their father, the President of the Family Division has declared.
In Re H-B (Contact), Sir James Munby heard an appeal from a father for direct contact with his 16 and 14 year-old daughters. The girls had been “resolutely hostile to any form of contact” and a previous judge had taken that into consideration when he said that the father could only get in touch with them through letters or cards “once every two months”.
The father argued that the judge had breached his rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which guarantees the right to a private and family life by “bringing the proceedings to an end prematurely when further steps to achieve contact were possible and should have been taken”.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice alongside the President and Lord Justice Vos, Lady Justice Black dismissed the father’s appeal. She said that that the initial judge had not made a mistake in his application of the law.
While Sir James agreed with Lady Justice Black’s assessment, he warned the family about the potential consequences of a fractured relationship between the girls and their father. The original judge had predicted that the girls will “struggle to function as adults” without a healthy relationship with both parents. Sir James said that unless “urgent steps to improve things” were taken, that prediction would likely be correct.
He went on to say that even though the girls were still adamant in their opposition to spending time with their father, the mother should do more encourage a relationship, as “that is what parenting is all about”.
It is part of a parent’s job to get their children to do things they may not wish to, such as “going to the dentist, going to visit some ‘boring’ elderly relative, going to school, doing homework or sitting an examination”, Sir James said.
The President expressed his hope that the case could be a “catalyst for change” in the family, because if the relationships were not repaired, “the future for all of them is bleak. There will be no winners here; all will be losers”.
To read the full judgment, click here.