A family court has imposed a new barring order on a warring ex-couple.
Barring orders, technically termed ’section 91 (14)’ orders, are issued under the Children Act 1989 when embittered parents disrupt their children’s lives by engaging in repeated litigation. They prohibit the person named in the order from applying for court orders regarding their children without permission from the court.
The recently published case of M (Children) concerned two brothers – a seven year-old referred to as ‘D’, and his younger sibling ‘F’ who is five. The couple separated before the latter was born.
Since then, “the litigation has proceeded almost without ceasing” noted Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies.
The parents were engaged in both a financial dispute as well as disagreements over the father’s contact with the children.
Sitting at the family court in Cambridge, Judge Davies said the parents’ relationship became so acrimonious that the father was unable to even pick up his sons from their mother’s home without the intervention of ‘professional contact supervisors’ for a period. However, when these were unable to continue in their role, the parents reached a temporary agreement which involved a contact centre and help from a friend.
Judge Davies said:
“This is an extraordinary situation for these children.”
Two barring orders had been made for limited periods before the family returned to the courts this month. The father sought an extension of his weekend contact rights, allowing him to pick the children up from school on Fridays and take them back on Mondays. He also wanted to see the boys for half the school holidays, and opposed the introduction of a further barring order.
The mother, meanwhile, opposed both these requests and asked the court of a five year section 91 (14) order.
Judge Davies considered the issues surround the father’s contact. She noted that the D, the older boy, had major problems coping with his anxiety surrounding going to school, and he needed careful encouragement by his mother to be able to not only go in but also come home again at the end of the school day and “deal with the transition between school and home.” The mother had come to a special arrangement with the school in which she came in every day for half an hour to help with the latter.
Consequently, said the Judge, “I am satisfied that to make any arrangement where D is dropped off at school at the end of a contact would not be in D’s interests at this stage.”
However, the given the father’s regular attendance at school and his involvement in school trips, and outings, the Judge could “see no reason why the father cannot one day a fortnight do that half hour transition with D. So the order I am going to make will provide that the father can collect the boys from school on a Friday.”
This arrangement would come into force in a few months in order to allow the youngster time to get used to the idea.
The Judge agreed to extend the father’s contact rights during school holidays but stressed that the situation needed careful handing given D’s social difficulties. She granted the father an extra day with his sons for each scheduled visit during these periods, increasing to two extra days during the following summer holiday period.
Finally, the Judge turned to the barring order. She declared:
“I am satisfied from everything I have read and heard that these boys need a further period of peace, tranquillity and no litigation.”
However, she believed that five years was too long a time span and that too many changes could take place during that period. Consequently, the new section 91 (14) order would run for one year and nine months.
The judgement is available to read here.