What Judges Say and Do in Britain's Secret Family Court
Judges' remarks on denying contact to a parent and his/her children
Mr Justice Agliomby on refusing overnight contact for the third consecutive year: "The point that struck me most was that the very first question the father asked the mother was whether they might not get on better if she let him see the child."
Judge Agliombi warned a father who was arguing that costs should not be ordered against him because the mother was depriving their child of a father: "If you go on like this you stand in great danger of never having staying contact with your son."
Senior District Judge Angel misinformed a complainant that "there is an unrestricted right of appeal" in contact cases. (There is, in fact, little if any right of appeal.) When this was brought to the attention of the President of the Family Division, her office replied that she "considered the matter closed."
Her Honour Judge Anwyl QC said "children need to be with their mother the evening before school because only mother can make their sandwiches and iron their school uniform". This was said after hearing that daughter had been going to school from father's house 50% of the time over a five year period! Jan 2004
Mrs Justice Bracewell (v v V 2004): went out of her way in paragraph 2 to say 'This is neither a unique nor unusual case'. She then goes on, in para 4 to say 'There is a perception ... that the courts rubber-stamp cases awarding careof children to mothers almost automatically and marginalise fathers from the lives oftheir children. There is also a perception that courts allow parents with care to flout court orders for contact and permit the parent with residence to exclude the parent from the lives of the children so that the other parent is worn down by years of futile litigation which achieves nothing and only ends when that parent gives up the struggle, or the children are old enough to make their own decisions, assuming they have not been brainwashed in the meantime.' There was no attempt to refute this 'perception'.
Bracewell didn't want to consider Parental Alienation as a 'Syndrome' but she was prepared to find as fact that 'brain-washing', 'coaching' and, hence, 'emotional abuse' had taken place. And she was prepared to reverse the residence order, and thechildren's living arrangements in the face of the children's stated wish. It should be noted, however, that the CAFCASS officer had cleared the way for her to do so,even if she had not actually specifically recommended the switch.
Justice Bracewell also made much more specific requests for new powers than other judges have made. Mrs Bracewell appreciates the impact of the 'perception' on all the cases that don't come to Court or which falter or fester in the lower courts. She has totally undermined 'research' published by her Department that tries to spin the idea that most excluded parents get the parenting time or 'contact' that they are seeking.
Deputy District Judge Butler: This case cries out for a Conciliation Hearing. If the father voluntarily enters into a standing order, I will give him plus points for doing so. The father might decide not to pursue his application concerning residence as it is likely to prejudice the Judge when he considers contact. Aug 2003
Ex agreed nothing at Conciliation Hearing - she was under no incentive. Father, having entered into Standing order, received no credit and promptly cancelled the SO. Subsequently (May 2004) Father did not get residency but his application for it did not prejudice his case when the judge considered contact.
Mr Justice Calman: ordered that a father, who lived within 300 yards of his son's primary residence, should never answer the door when his son rang.
Mr Justice Catlin: : a) when a mother refused to obey an order for shared residence, he ordered the cessation of all contact between a father and his two sons in response to unsubstantiated charges of abuse; b) at a subsequent hearing 12 months later,when all charges of abuse had been dismissed by the investigating officer, he ordered 1 hour of contact between father and son per month.
Mr Justice Cazalet: in hearings spaced over 2 years 1) ordered end of Friday overnights on the grounds that the child had to rest after school, and 2) ordered end of Saturday overnights on the grounds that she had to rest all day Sunday before school on Monday.
Judge Goldstein, after a father filed a complaint against him, ordered all contact between that father and his children stopped for three years. Overturned on appeal by Butler-Sloss LJ, who described the judge's behaviour as "outrageous."
District judge Grand stated that he did not believe in Shared Residency Orders which were a weak decision on the side of the court of apeal in London as both parents had Parental Responsibility. When the father outlined to the judge that PR did not entitle access to their child only a reslonsibility, the father was told to shut up
Mrs Justice Green: "It's enough if the father sees the children twice per week."
Dame Justice Hale (in an appeal where the father had been awarded just one hour per month) "This appeal is unmeritorious"
Lady Justice Hale "Father should be satisfied with 1 day of contact per year.father should appreciate that any happy contact, no matter how brief, no matter how infrequent, is of benefit to the children.the way to increase contact is to reduce pressure on the mother, contact improves when mother is not under pressure, bringing thematter to court puts mother under pressure.' 13 Feb 2004 CA
Judge Hayes recently ended contact between a father and his children to'take some heat out of the situation.'
In another recent judgement the Judge observed that whilst the child enjoyed seeing the father, this also upset the mother. This in turn led to the child feeling guilty for having good times with his father. The outcome was that the father was prevented from seeing his child entirely as it was judged not to be in the child's best interest
Mr Justice Hedley said I will not make an order (for contact) that the mother is not going to comply with. He said what good will come of fining the mother, or sending her to prison. He went on to say that his order was unenforceable.
There was a penal notice on the order, that he had put on, but he was not prepared to do anything.
District Judge Hindley: dismissed a father's application to phone his 7yr old daughter on Christmas morning calling it "too disruptive - she would be opening her Christmas presents."
Mr Justice Holman "I don't care whose bundle I read"
Mister Justice Johnson: ordered a father declared a vexatious litigant for seeking more than one overnight per fortnight with his 5-year old son. Upheld onappeal by Thorpe LJ.
District Judge Kenworthy-Browne: known by the staff at First Avenue House for repeatedly bringing his dog to court, he rebuked a litigant-in-person for not wearing a tie.
A child of 3 "will have developed no Christmas associations with the father, and even if he has spent Christmases at the father's home, he will not remember them. As such, he will not expect increased contact with his father over the holidays."
Judge Lamdin dismissed a father's request (after three years of litigation) for any overnight contact with his six year old on the grounds that "the child is growing up knowing his father, and that what we are talking about, i.e. overnight staying contact, is something quite different."
District Judge Lipman: ordered that a father be allowed only 2 weeks of holiday (out of a possible 13) per year: "You have the midweek contact (3 hrs per week) instead of this."
Judge Lloyd ordered that an ordinary father be permitted to write to his child once per fortnight on the condition that the letter's contents be reviewed by anofficer of the court.
Judge Milligan, to a parent who had been unsuccessfully trying to see his child for 2 years: "This is a father who needs, in my judgment, to think long andhard about his whole approach to this question of contact and to ask himself sincerely whether in fact he seeks to promote it for his own interests dressed up as the child's interests."
Judge Munby, ordered the end of all direct contact between a father and his three children while noting that the mother "wished the children could have contact with the father. She said there was no need for all this litigation. The children should see the father."
Mr Justice Munby sentenced a father to four months in prison for giving his children Christmas presents (a bike, a camera and a walkman) during a scheduled contact meeting.Upheld on appeal by Thorpe LJ and Butler-Sloss LJ.
Deputy District Judge ("Sloppy") O'Leary was asked for an increase in contact [case booked for half a day]. All the evidence supported it. Without reading the statements produced for the hearing, she asked mother "would you agree removal of the condition if father undertook to use child's first name instead of her second name?". Father had made it crystal clear he wouldn't; he hadn't for five years so why does she arrogantly think she can fix this in thirty minutes? Father said "I have promised my daughter I will use her second name and I cannot break that promise". O'Leary said "Of course you can". Hearing transferred to RCJ. Dealt with in thirty minutes. CAFCASS having said they were too busy to produce a report by 20 May, she ordered them to do so by 1 April; it didn't occur to her she has no sanction to makethem do this. (Feb 2004)
Deputy District Judge Pauffley, in raising a father's contact to 18 hours per month after 1? years of litigation: "What will never be helpful is for the father to see his contact in terms of mathematical division. Apparently he is running at a disadvantage of 999 to 1 . . . The court does not look at it in those terms."
Judge Plaskow rejected a father's request for overnight contact with his 4-year-old, and ordered court costs against him, on the grounds that the child might require a special diet. (this is in breach of D v D)
Judge Rutherford (to a father who is driving a 750 mile round trip to see his daughter) "Do you know how inflammatory a residence order is? I have to tell you that my starting point for the purposes of determining the appropriate levels of contact is what the mother in her sole discretion deems to be the appropriate level!" (December 2004)
District Judge Segal: cancelled after 30 minutes a full hearing at which the father sought contact during the summer holidays and rescheduled it for after the summer. Upheld on appeal. Same ruling in a different case from DeputyDistrict Judge Airey (Nov 2001)
Judge Segal also decided to let an FDR be heard instead, that afternoon,by DDJ O'Leary when O'Leary was hearing an interim application for increase in contact;she, that afternoon, decided she didn't have time for it. (Feb 2004)
Judge Segal postponed a full hearing in order to obtain a Court WelfareOfficer report on two parents who had brought no charges of misconduct against one another by stating: "Well, I think both parents have fallen over backwards to avoid causing the child any sort of harm, but a child always suffers when a marriage breaks down . . .You see, it is possible to kill with kindness by doing too much."
Judge Simmons in a case where alienation was written plainly written all across it ... in judgement... "I have looked at these Parental Alienation Syndrome allegations put forward by father. and can find no evidence of it at all...whatever it (PAS) may be?..." !
Mr Justice Sumner: "It is simply not on" for any parent toreturn a 3 year old child home as late as 6 pm on a Sunday.
In another case, he ordered costs against a father who sought any summer holidays with hischild.
Mr Justice Sumner: reproved a father who had made one application to thecourt over two years of litigation, and sought more than twenty-six nights of contact withhis child per year:"You feel better because you can put pressure, you can bringeverybody to court."
District Judge Thomas, in reply to a father who had been cut off from all contact with his three children for six months: "And I see that you would like me togrant an Order that the mother file a statement to show good reason why there should not be normal contact. Well, I'm not going to do it!"
Lord Justice Thorpe "we need guidance from government on this..."
"This case (Peter Maynard) is illustrative of the dilemma that the courts face and isas extreme as any I have encountered."
The judge said the lack of court sanctions in cases where mothers refuse contact was"a major problem throughout the family justice system". At present, the only sanctions available are fining a mother or sending her to jail for contempt of court - a step judges are loath to take because it would deprive the child of its carer.
in rejecting the appeal of a father who wanted to cross- examine a Court Welfare Officer (whose evidence prevented him from seeing his children), affirmed that "there is noright of cross examination of Court Welfare Officers."
Mr Justice Turner in reply to a parent who sought to question a CourtWelfare Officer's report: "That confirms my suspicions. This is what members of the public do when they disagree with the recommendations. I believe that its totally wrong that members of the public can challenge Judges and Court Welfare Officers. Officers should not be subjected to it. There is a procedure outside the Court about making acomplaint against the Judge. Members of the public should not have the right to make complaints."
Lord Justice Ward's pleas for sanity came when he refused the father permission to appeal against a court judgment allowing the mother to move to Australia with her "loyal friend" with whom she sleeps 5 -6 nights pw ("not lesbians" said Ward); neither woman has work in Australia. Mother condemned by NSPCC,Bernardo's, Childline, Children's Society for holding children fully-clothed under cold shower as punishment (Ward ruled this is "not abuse"). The children told the court they wanted to live with father (Ward said this was emotional abuse by father because he was seriously undermining the mother's influence by "providing an alternative home"). All experts agreed that direct contact should continue at no more than 2-weekly intervals; The Judge, in the court of appeal in London said the mother bore an awesome responsibility to make sure the 2 girls age 5 & 8 maintained proper contact with their father
Judge Wilkinson (Liverpool) about a father whose daughter had been living with him for five years "The mother is the primary carer".
Mr Justice Wilson acting against what he called "the deep wishes and feelings of three intelligent, articulate children," ordered the end of all direct contact with their father. Upheld on appeal by Butler-Sloss, LJ.
Wilson at Hardwicke Chambers recently... "I am just not goingto enforce a contact order. So I simply won't make an order I know I am not going to enforce in the first place..."
District Judge X (case pending): ordered the cessation of all contact between parent and child, with no review, "in order to try to move forward and restore the relationship."
District Judge X (case pending): ordered that a father who had not been allowed to see his children for 4 months should have his case deferred for another 4 months pending investigation of an unsubstantiated 1972 domestic disagreement from a previous marriage.
District Judge X (case pending): after repeat applications about serial breaches of a contact order since early 2001, ordered that the issue be reviewed in late 2002.
Judge X (name withheld by litigant) told a father who sought more than 2 hours contact with his young child per fortnight that "it may well be that the fatheris being too possessive."
Judge X (case pending) ordered that a father, who had waited seven months for a full hearing without seeing his children, be permitted for six months to write them no more than one card/letter every three weeks, without any direct contact.
Avoid Her Honour Judge Bowman (PRFD).
Judges Coates (Brighton), Million, Bevington (RCJ), Bradley, Berry (PRFD) & Gilbertseem fair.
We have heard favourably of Distict Judge Harrison (Chester).
We used to hear reports that Her Honour Judge Judy Hamilton QC (Generally Bromley, fills in at Medway) appeared to be good news but it turns out she is just like the rest of them and won't enforce her own orders against a mother she knows to be deeply unpleasant - the result being that two more children are effectively deprived of access to their perfectly decent father. [Jan 2004].
The current position of the Lord Chancellor's Department and Family Law Minister RtHon Rosie Winterton "The Government does not believe that a legal presumption to contact would be helpful"
We have heard favourably about Mrs Glencross (Medway CAFCASS) and David Irwin (Kingston CAFCASS)
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