Parental truce

Family Law | 14 Jul 2015 1

In my posts here I have often highlighted the criticisms made by judges of parental conflict in disputes concerning children, and their exhortations to their warring parents to try to work together for the sake of their children. For a recent example of such a post see here.

Sometimes, however, the parents do come to their senses, putting aside their differences for the sake of their children. Just such a thing appeared to happen in the recently published case of Y (A Child) (Private Law), which began with these very true words from Mrs Justice Pauffley:

“Nothing is ever certain or predictable in litigation about children.”

The case concerned the arrangements for a two year old girl, ‘Y’. Y originally lived with her mother. In November 2013 there was an issue over the father’s contact with Y, as the mother alleged that the father had sexually abused her. That issue was dealt with by Mrs Justice Pauffley, who found that the mother had invented the allegation for her own malicious purposes. Then, in April 2014, as “the result of a deteriorating set of welfare circumstances for the child”, it became necessary for the court to consider whether she should move from her mother’s home to live with her father. Mrs Justice Pauffley decided that she should.

That left the issue of the mother’s contact with Y, and that is what the judgment related to. Mrs Justice Pauffley made provision for the mother’s contact, at least in the short-term, but her job was clearly made easier by the fact that the parents, in particular the mother, appeared to have at least begun to put aside their differences:

“This case underwent a fairly dramatic and very pleasing alteration in its presentation during the course of yesterday’s evidence. Suddenly, it seemed there was potential for significant progress in a situation which until now has seemed entrenched, immovable and profoundly depressing … The prospect of real and enduring change for the better came during the mother’s ‘cross examination’ of the father which she began with an unexpected ‘Hello’. What followed was a reasonably friendly dialogue marked by quite remarkable civility on both sides, devoid for the most part of rancour, hostility and unpleasantness.”

The mother made plain that it was now her ambition to “make a brand new start” in her quest that Y should be “secure, happy, loved and have a great future.”

Mrs Justice Pauffley did, however, introduce a note of caution, and gave a few wise words of advice:

“The parents and particularly the mother have choices. Either there will be genuine, sustainable and positive change or things will remain the same. Y’s long term health and happiness demand that urgent and determined efforts are made to bring about that change. The parents might begin, it seems to me, by referring to Y as “our” rather than “my” daughter. To them that may seem trivial. To me it speaks volumes about how they have tended to view one another and also Y. If they begin to see her as a shared, treasured and beautiful human being created in love then the chances of them being able to rebuild a civilised post separation relationship of trust and mutual respect will be immeasurably enhanced.”

The judgment was handed down in August last year, and there is no word as to how things have progressed since. I do hope, however, that the spirit of cooperation between the parents has endured and that by now, perhaps, they are able to make decisions for Y without assistance from the authorities and the court. That really would be a good outcome for all concerned.

The full judgment in the case can be read here.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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    1. The Devil's Advocate says:

      Thanks John for illustrating in the main how an outcome from parental dysfunction can develop and provide for a loving and sustainable parental balance of engaging interactions which solely benefit the children and their best interests. This in the main would be the situation for the vast majority of cases which would be ,”carrot-sticked” and truly supportive for a respectful and responsible parity in parenting.

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