Father appeals child arrangements order made to permit the mother to take a child on holiday
A typical case?
Apart from the fact that the parties, or at least the father, appear to be rather better off than the average litigant, the case X v Y (Child Arrangements Order) is in many ways typical of very many cases concerning arrangements for children following the separation of their parents. In other ways, it is not so typical. It also perhaps demonstrates the difficulties that the court can have when faced with urgent applications, and very little, or insufficient, time to deal with them.
The case concerned a child, ‘Z’. We are not told in the judgment when he was born, only that he was very young when his parents separated, after a relatively brief relationship, in early 2016.
As with so many cases, the parents appear to have been locked in litigation about arrangements for Z pretty well ever since they separated. I will not go into the details, save to set out the following points.
A child arrangements order was made in October 2016 which, as in so many other cases, set out a staged process whereby Z would spend increasing times with the father. Again, as in so many other cases, the mother complained that the father did not keep to the arrangements set out in the order.
The matter returned to the court and in June 2017 an agreed order was made providing a detailed framework for the arrangements for Z’s care, including a provision whereby the parties agreed not to take Z out of the country without the permission of the other parent, or court order. There was again a structure of time that Z would be spending with the father, and again the mother complained that the father did not follow and adhere to the planned arrangements.
In the light of these issues, the mother applied for a child arrangements order seeking changes to the father’s contact with Z, and a hearing was fixed for the 25th of July this year. At about 8pm on the evening before the hearing, the mother’s solicitors sent an email to the father in which they indicated that the mother sought permission to take Z to Europe for a period of 14 nights in the second half of August. The father replied at about 11pm, effectively signalling that he withheld his consent to the proposed holiday.
Interim live-with order
The hearing went ahead on the following day. The judge did not accept the father’s argument that the holiday should not go ahead because of the risk that the mother would not return Z to this country. He, therefore, made an interim child arrangements order for Z to live with the mother, which had the automatic effect of giving permission to the mother to take Z on holiday to abroad for up to a month.
The father applied for permission to appeal against this order, and his application went before Mrs Justice Theis in the High Court, on the 14th of August.
The father’s complaint was essentially twofold: firstly, regarding the giving of permission to permit the mother to take Z abroad, and secondly, regarding the making of an interim live-with child arrangements order. As to the latter, the mother had not made an application for such an order, and the implications of such an order were not properly considered by the court.
Mrs Justice Theis agreed regarding the interim child arrangements order and therefore granted the father permission to appeal against the order.
As to the matter of the holiday, Mrs Justice Theis dealt with that immediately. In the light of the fact that the child had been taken abroad previously, and of a package of safeguards offered by the mother, she felt that the risk of Z not being returned was minimal. In any event, the country where they were going to has effective procedures in place that would swiftly ensure Z was returned. She, therefore, gave permission to the mother to take Z on holiday.
The full judgment can be read here.