No direct contact for father: All experienced family lawyers have come across it: the parent who is utterly certain that they know best, and who is unable to accept any contrary view. This outlook completely clouds their approach to any dispute over arrangements for their children, and how they deal with court proceedings aimed at resolving that dispute.
A recipe for disaster
And of course, these issues can be magnified if that parent isn’t legally represented, as is of course so often the case these days. Without proper advice and a lawyer to at least attempt to moderate their actions, such behaviour is only likely to be worse. It is a recipe for disaster.
All of this was amply demonstrated by the judgment in the case Re C1 and C2 (Child Arrangements), which was decided by Mr Justice Keehan in the High Court back in August, but which has only recently appeared on the Bailii website.
The case concerned cross-applications by a mother and father in relation to arrangements for two children, named by Mr Justice Keehan as ‘C1’ and ‘C2’. C1 was born in 2017, and C2 in 2007. The mother is the parent of both, but the father is just the parent of C1 only. The father was seeking a child arrangements order in respect of both children, and the mother sought an order pursuant to section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 against the father, preventing him from making any further Children Act applications in respect of C1 or C2, without leave of the Court.
The father was seeking regular direct contact with the children. His application was opposed, both by the mother and by the father of C2. The children’s guardian also supported their opposition to direct contact.
The father also has two other children, who were the subject of separate proceedings. A section 91(14) order had already been made in those proceedings, and at a hearing in 2016 the father had “demonstrated threatening and abusive behaviour”.
The background of the C1/C2 case was as follows. The parties had begun a relationship in about 2015. The relationship ended in 2018 and the parties agreed that the father should have contact with C12. Sadly, that arrangement quickly broke down. At one point the father drove off with C1 and the mother had to go to court to get a recovery order for him to be returned to her care.
Disputes over contact continued, and contact broke down. At a hearing in September 2018 the judge proposed that in order to restart contact, the father should have contact for two hours to C1 twice a week (the father had been seeking a shared care arrangement). The father was so unhappy with what was proposed that he walked out of court.
Later that month the father went to the mother’s home, refused to leave despite the mother requesting him to do so 31 times, and only left after she pressed a panic button that had been installed, and before the police arrived.
Some days later the father once again attended the mother’s home. In breach of a prohibitive steps order he removed C1 from the care of his mother, and there was an altercation between them, in the course of which the mother was assaulted by the father.
A psychologist prepared a report for the court, in the course of which she diagnosed the father as suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder, a diagnosis which he adamantly denied. She was cross-examined at length by the father who, albeit a litigant in person, is a qualified member of the Bar. It was her clear and firm view that the father was demonstrating a lack of empathy towards the mother, and she told Mr Justice Keehan that contact at the moment, given the father’s stance and behaviour, was not a viable proposition.
In the course of the hearing before Mr Justice Keehan the father sought to ask the mother no fewer than 738 questions. Needless to say, Mr Justice Keehan only allowed the questions that he considered to be relevant. In in the course of his cross-examination, the father became increasingly animated and aggressive, and his use of bad language increased throughout the course of the hearing.
Appallingly bad behaviour
In his analysis Mr Justice Keehan had the following to say about the father:
“He is obsessed with facts, but those facts are his facts. He has no truck at all with any contrary view of the world, you either agree with him or you are wrong. If you are wrong or take a contrary view, you are subjected to his vented anger and fury, you are subject to his intimidation and his coercive behaviour. He said that he seeks the truth, that he does so without any account of the consequences for or the adverse impact on other people. This is and has been amply demonstrated in this case where for example, he sought findings against the mother which, on any objective view, were irrelevant to the issues in this case and he took no account and had no regard to the adverse impact that would have on the mother’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.
“His behaviour during the course of this hearing has been nothing short of appalling. He has been loud, animated, aggressive and intimidating in his behaviour and his manner. I make all due allowance for the fact that he is a litigant in person albeit that he is a qualified member of the Bar. I also take account of the emotionally charged nature of this case but his use of bad language and swearing increased as time went on. He was often rambling and incoherent either in giving evidence or cross-examining witnesses or when he made submissions.”
He went on with the following remarkable comments about the father:
“I have never witnessed such prolonged and appallingly bad behaviour in court before.”
“The father is his own worst enemy … He is frustrated by these court proceedings and the stance take[n] by the mother and the professionals, and that boils over and when it boils over, as I find, he cannot control his temper.
No direct contact for father
Inevitably, Mr Justice Keehan was satisfied that it was not in the welfare best interests of either C1 or C2 to have direct contact with the father. He, therefore, ordered that there should be indirect contact only, by means of letters, cards, photos and presents, and the mother providing an update to the father on C1’s progress four times a year. He also made a section 91(14) order, for a period two years.
The full judgment can be found here.