High Court decides on high conflict child contact case

31 October 2014

The case concerned a father’s application for contact with his 13 year old daughter. He had limited contact in accordance with the terms of a Court Order made in 2006.  The father sought an increase in contact to include overnight staying contact.  The mother was a Teacher and the father was a Police Officer.  The case raised interesting issues on several fronts.  The child is now a teenager and her wishes and feelings would be an important factor for the Judge to take into account.  Sadly the case had a long and difficult background.  Before the Order was made in 2006, there had been over 40 Court hearings.  There was a lot of conflict between the parents.  There was a background of alleged domestic violence but the main concern was the father’s apparent obsession with his daughter. He always sought to get his own way which had been identified by two Consultant Psychologists and a CAFCASS officer in the previous proceedings. 

The court had grave concerns about the father’s behaviour so in 2006 it reduced the level of contact which the father had with his daughter and made a very long and restrictive order as to what contact the father could have with the child’s school and with the child by text, email or any other method, and importantly the Court also made a direction under Section 91(14) of the Children Act to  prevent the father for a period of six years, from making any further court applications without first obtaining permission from a Judge.  Such Orders are rarely made but in the circumstances of this case, due to the father’s personality and behaviour, it was felt that such an Order was necessary in order to protect the child and her mother who had been subjected to lengthy Court proceedings and considerable cost. 

It was notable that the day after the Section 91(14) Order expired in 2012 the father immediately sought a substantial increase in contact.  A voluntary increase in contact could not be agreed between the parents and a further Court application was issued by the father.  The Court gave a very lengthy judgment.  The history and the background to the case was carefully weighed in the balance.  The Judge decided, in accordance with the child’s own expressed wishes and feelings, to increase face to face contact from three times per year to six times per year on specific days. The Court was concerned to ensure that a potentially vulnerable child should be protected from pressure and manipulation by her father.  The Court decided that the father could not be relied upon to meet the child’s emotional needs and that she had suffered emotional damage in the past. Consequently, the court was not prepared to increase contact to the frequency which the father sought.   No overnight contact was ordered. To protect the child’s interests the Court continued restrictions from the Order made in 2006 as to the contact the father could have with the child’s school and other contact including text messaging and via social networking sites.  The Court decided that the child’s interests demanded that a further Section 91(14) Order should be made to remain in force until the child’s 16th birthday.  This was felt to be essential to allow the child to focus on her GCSE exams without the prospect of there being further Court proceedings in the future, having regard to the particular history of the case. 

If you are involved in a high conflict case concerning contact, or residence arrangements particularly where teenagers are involved and there may be a risk of long term emotional damage to the child, or you have been involved in protracted Court proceedings in the past and there are issues you would now like to resolve, you are invited to contact our Family Team who will be pleased to advise you.

Please call 01245 228126 or email family@gepp.co.uk for a free initial consultation.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.