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When contact is not in the best interest of a child

View profile for Muntech Kaur
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For a little girl named B , the court process has spanned almost all of her life and continues to be ongoing. 

In the matter of F v H & Anor [2017] EWHC 3358 (Fam), the court is concerned with B, a little girl aged four and a half. B’s parents have been involved in court proceedings on and off from 2013 to 2017. In this rather sad case, the mother made multiple, and unsubstantiated allegations against the father alleging that he had sexually abused B and subjecting this very young child to multiple medical examinations of an intrusive nature, all with a view to obstruct and frustrate the relationship between B and her father. Matters escalated in 2015, when mother abducted B to Israel. This resulted in B being made a Ward of the Court, returned to England and ultimately being placed in father’s sole care in October 2015. Not content with these arrangements, mother tried to disrupt these resulting in the court imposing injunctions against mother. The court decided that mother have no contact with B. 

In January 2016, mother made an application to spend time with B. The court ordered that mother undertake a physiatrist assessment. Unsurprisingly, mother did not comply resulting in the court repeating the need for such assessment and making it a pre-condition of any re-introduction of contact. After a fashion, mother cooperated with the psychiatric assessment, however, with a different expert rather than one ordered by the court. 

Unfortunately, the expert who assessed mother did not read all of the case papers and produced what the court later referred to as a “completely flawed” and “of no assistance” report. 

In July 2017, B was made a party to the case and a guardian appointed to legally represent her best interests. Regrettably, the guardian placed too much reliance on the flawed psychiatric report and only read a limited number of case papers before recommending in her own report that B spend time with her mother. The court followed the guardian’s recommendations. It is this decision which is now been successfully appealed with the Court of Appeal indicating that the Judge in the lower Court placed too much weight on mother’s self-reporting contained in the flawed psychiatric report resulting on a decision being made on flimsy evidence. The Court of Appeal went on further to criticise the guardian for failing to appraise herself of the full facts of the case before offering the court her recommendation. 

For B, the saga between her parents continues and this little girl there is yet no end to this legal process. 

It is not commonplace for a parent not be involved in a child’s life. The court has strict guidance as to when one parent should be excluded from a child’s life. The court has indeed in this case, rightly, pointed out that arrangements should not be experimental, especially with a history of harmful behaviour and abduction. The primary consideration of this application, and indeed every application concerning any child, will be a child’s best interests.

At Birkett Long LLP, our team of divorce and separation specialists are highly experienced in dealing with and advising in children disputes, involving exceptional and complex circumstances. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01268 824938.