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Family Division President warns against hasty proceedings

Local authorities must give more thought to whether or not care proceedings are really necessary, Britain’s most senior family law judge declared in a recent ruling.

The case concerned the parents of a four year-old boy, referred to as ‘AB’, who suffers from a “life-limiting” brain disorder. In February of last year, their local authority decided he should be taken into care because the parents were not cooperating with the carers sent to help them with AB.

Judge Tolson granted the care order but this was postponed while an appeal by the parents proceeded. Later that year, however, the council reversed course and applied for permission to withdraw their care proceedings. The situation had changed in AB’s family, they explained. His parents’ relationship with the council carers had improved, allowing them to provide the mandated help with the boy’s care.

Family Division President Sir James Munby granted the authority’s request, commending the parents for working with the carers and noting that no critical findings had been made about their own care of AB.

But he also suggested that the unnamed local authority should have given more thought to their original care application, saying councils should:

“…think long and hard before embarking upon care proceedings against otherwise unimpeachable parents who may justifiably resent recourse to what they are likely to see as an unnecessarily adversarial and punitive remedy.”

And when it came to children with serious illnesses like AB, the President continued, councils seeking care orders needed to consider not only whether particular placements were suitable but also how easy the parents would find it to visit their child in the facility, especially if their condition worsened.

“…it is simply unbearable to contemplate the reaction of parents unable to be with their child at the moment of death because of geography or, even worse, bureaucracy.”

You can read In The Matter of AB (A Child) here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Nick Thomas-Webster says:

    At last – some clear thinking from the family court regarding care proceedings. Far too often care orders are applied for as a punishment or sanction for parents not “cooperating” with local authority officials. Many of these officials are unelected and most of them are not qualified to carry out the sometimes extremely difficult tasks concerning children with terminal illnesses. This statement from the most senior Judge will most probably be ignored by local authorities who see care proceedings more of a job creation function rather than an essential step taken only in the most serious of cases. Lets hope its the first of many steps clipping unelected part time employees wings !!!

  2. StuG says:

    So, here we criticism only the local authority and not the performance of Tolson for making an unnecessary care order. Local authorities wil always make unnecessary applications so long as they know they can rely on the likes of Tolson

  3. vs says:

    In the next couple of days I am going to, have to grant my grandsons request that he comes and meets his birth family
    Little does he know I have all his birth details, breech, cord wrapped around his neck, starved of oxygen, then the full family court file of all that went wrong, and that his adoption was illegal, thats family courts and the administration of justice, and the mess they get away with????????????

  4. Dr. Manhattan. says:

    Very sensible words from President Munby.
    Local authorities are notorious for launching courts proceedings against parents when in many cases it was simply not the last resort. they do not explore other options and the big question is why. could it be to serve an Agenda which leads to the very profitable Fostering/Adoption agencies.

  5. vs says:

    Always about money, covering up of hospital damaged Child Birth Claims
    All Children reach adulthood, can then obtain birth detail hospital records in their original name with birth certificate, then all will be revealed, too little too late, but thats British Justice in the best interests of a child, the insignificance of a childs life with its parents, justice

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