The father of a 12 year-old boy has failed in his legal bid for contact against an “implacably hostile” mother.
In a case which the Court of Appeal admitted had “a tragic outcome”, the father was denied even indirect contact with his son. This means that he could not see the boy in person, nor could he have conversations with him over the phone, by post or via the internet.
The boy’s parents separated in 2005 and initially, the father spent between one and two hours a week with him. Despite an “extremely strong attachment” between the two, contact began to deteriorate the following year. The father applied to the courts to rectify this. A Cafcass officer on the case recommended that contact be stayed (postponed) until a full investigation could be carried out.
Both the mother and the child were described as suffering from “significant psychological and/or emotional vulnerabilities” as a result of the contact dispute. So much so that, in 2007, the father withdrew his initial application because of the stress it was inflicting upon the mother. He later claimed that this was “the most ill advised decision that he has made in his life”.
Three years later, the father once again launched an application to have contact with his son. By this time, the mother had developed “a highly negative and adverse view” that the father was dangerous. Her son had also adopted this view and adamantly objected to the prospect of contact.
As a result, the father’s initial appeal failed, so he took his case to the Court of Appeal. He claimed that the mother had been “implacably hostile” towards him. In family law, this means that she had made a conscious effort to prevent him from seeing his son.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice McFarlane said that in most cases, it is “in the best interests of a child to grow up having a full, real and entirely ordinary relationship with each of his or her parents” even after a separation.
However, he ruled that the initial judge was correct to rule that it would be “a formidable change in the circumstances” to start contact again after so long, especially considering the child’s objections to participation.
Therefore, the judge dismissed the father’s appeal. In his conclusion, Lord Justice McFarlane said that the decision he had come to was “a tragedy” for both the father and son but claimed that some family disputes cannot be solved by “the blunt instrument of a judge sitting in a law court making an order”.
To read the Court of Appeal’s judgment in full, click here.