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When Contact goes wrong

How often do we hear horror stories about parents obstructing contact and alienating children? Sometimes parents behave so badly that the children’s relationship with their other parent fails altogether. The impact on parents and their children can be catastrophic but many parents feel helpless to do anything about it.

In a recent case of  W v G the court was faced with a situation where a mother had failed to comply with an order which provided for her two children to spend time with their father (contact). She was found to have put obstacles in the way of contact, seemingly a recurring theme.

Back in 2014 the court found that the mother had failed to recognise the importance of the father in the children’s lives and had emotionally abused the children. An order was made for the parents to share the care of their two young children on the basis that they would live with their mother but would have contact with their father. The order was framed in such a way that it would prevent the mother from further distancing the children from their father. However, the mother’s negative behaviour continued so the father took the matter back to the court where the judge had no hesitation in deciding that the mother had not complied with the order. The judge expressed concerns about the mother’s ability to promote the children’s relationship with their father.

In circumstances that will be familiar to many parents, the mother had changed arrangements for the father’s contact, she had thwarted telephone contact by insisting that it take place at times when the father was not available and had been highly critical of the father. She was described by the judge as “contemptuous of the father and devaluing his role in the children’s lives”. Additionally, the judge found that the mother had exercised her parental responsibility in a unilateral way and to the children’s disadvantage. So, having determined that the mother was incapable of appropriately addressing the children’s emotional needs, just over 12 months after the first court order the judge made a child arrangements order reversing the original order and providing for the father to be primary carer of the two children. At the same time, the court curtailed the mother’s exercise of her parental responsibility.

This is an example of the court using its powers to prevent harm to children and to ensure continued relationships with both parents. In this case, the father had acted quickly and decisively and there was plenty of evidence of the mother’s negative behaviour. The courts won’t always make such drastic changes to the arrangements for children but nor will it tolerate parents who disregard the terms of a child arrangements order.

If you would like to discuss your own situation, please call 0161 969 3131 and ask to speak to a member of the family team.