Enforcement of Contact Orders – let it be shouted out from the roof-tops

The privacy of the family justice system makes it difficult for the public to get a good idea about what steps the courts are prepared to take in order to ensure that a child has a relationship with both parents. Those sources which are most critical of the ‘secret family justice system’ often suggest that the courts are either impotent or disinclined to support non-resident parents (usually fathers) in their attempts to obtain contact, but in fact this is not always so. Following is a selection of a few recent cases where the courts have been proactive and determined to ensure that an intransigent parent does not frustrate a child’s right to a relationship with both parents.

 Re P (A child) [2006] EWCA Civ 1792, [2007] 1 FLR 1820

The child was resident with its mother, who failed to produce the child for contact on 4 consecutive occasions. This was a breach of a court order which had a penal notice attached (a penal notice is a warning to the person who has to comply with the order that they must obey the order or they may be punished including by being sent to prison). There had been a previous history of the Mother failing to attend court or to facilitate contact.

On the Father’s application the court made a committal order against the Mother (a committal order is an order punishing someone who is in contempt of court because they have disobeyed a court order, and this can include a prison sentence) even though the Mother had not been at court on the day the committal order was made. The Mother had failed to attend court, citing childcare difficulties and an application on her behalf for an adjournment had been refused by the Judge who went ahead in her absence and made a suspended committal order (this means that if there was a further breach she would automatically serve a sentence of imprisonment).

When the Mother appealed the Court of Appeal upheld the committal order saying that it was appropriate in some cases to proceed with a committal application even when the Respondent (the Mother) was not present. The key factor here appears to have been the importance of ensuring that the Mother complied with the contact orders and given the Mother’s history of non-attendance the court was entitled to go ahead and deal with the matter. The Court of Appeal held that the Judge was entitled to take the view that the Mother’s reason for not attending court on that day was no more than an excuse. The Court of Appeal noted that it would have been better if the Judge had set out his reasons for the order made, but the order itself was allowed to stand.

Re A (A Child) [2007] EWCA Civ 899

In this case there was a history of attempts by the Mother (with whom the 8 year old child lived) to interfere with and interrupt the Father’s contact with the child. Court proceedings ran over a period of years during which the Judge warned the Mother that if she continued to disrupt contact the court would consider changing the child’s residence to the Father. After findings were made regarding the Mother’s deliberate sabotage of contact the Father chose to proceed not by way of a committal application as in the case above, but by making an application for residence.

The Mother’s behaviour continued. At the final hearing the expert evidence (social worker and psychologist) was that it was in the best interests of the child to live with his Father. The Psychologist’s view was that the Mother had a serious personality disorder and had a total lack of insight into how her behaviour was damaging for the child. The Social Worker’s evidence was that although the child did not want to live with his Father the long term risk of emotional harm were outweighed the short term trauma to him of a change of residence.

The court in this case plainly took the long view. In light of the Mother’s personality disorder (which are usually difficult to treat) there was little prospect of a change in the Mother’s behaviour so the prospects of maintaining a relationship with the Father without causing emotional damage to the child must have been pretty remote. The change of residence was ordered against the recommendation of the child’s headteacher and in spite of the facts that the Mother was acknowledged to provide very good care for the child who was doing well at school, was settled and wished to remain with his Mother. However it is not every case in which there will be a clear diagnosis of a personality disorder – most often the case will be far less clear cut.

One feature of the case is that the social worker involved in his report ruled out termination of contact with the Father as ‘not an option’, leading eventually to the inexorable conclusion that the only way to ensure a relationship with both parents was to change his residence. Unfortunately it is not always the case that social workers / CAFCASS Officers / Judges are prepared to take the same robust view – the professionals do sometimes advocate termination of contact as the least worst option for the child, although I think this is happening far less often, as is evidenced by the increasing frequency of law reports involving cases of a change of residence arising from the resident parent’s implacable hostility.

 In the matter of C (A Child) [2007] EWCA Civ 866

Again a case where a Mother repeatedly failed to cooperate with contact orders and sabotaged contact by making negative comments to the child about the Father. The Court held that the Mother was implacably hostile to contact. In this case the court had to weigh up the two options of committing the Mother to prison or changing residence. The child was c6 yrs old. The Father’s practical parenting ability as a primary carer was untested. The Mother had effectively issued the court with an ultimatum, saying that if residence were changed she would refuse to have any further contact with the child. The Judge took the view that since the Mother had made but not followed through on previous threats in the course of the proceedings this threat too may well not become a reality if residence were changed, although it was a risk. The Judge rejected the Mother’s offer of contact made half way through the hearing as he was not persuaded she would honour her offer.

The Mother had recently had a baby with her new partner and so instead the court ordered an immediate change of residence. The Judge had looked at the Welfare Checklist and struck a balance between the short term distress of a change of residence and the risk of long term harm. The Court of Appeal upheld the order. In the Judgment of the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Ward said:

As to the option to make no order, that was the option of abdication and all too frequently judges are driven to that conclusion and that is why week after week fathers come to this court protesting that the court is powerless to enforce its orders, quite unable to control the intractable, implacably hostile mother, even though the long-term damage to the child is perfectly obvious. Time after time this court has to mollify the angry father, endeavouring to explain that the judge has a broad discretion and that his decision cannot be challenged unless plainly wrong. This time the boot is on the other foot, and if a different conclusion has been reached in this case then let it be shouted out from the roof-tops.

137 thoughts on “Enforcement of Contact Orders – let it be shouted out from the roof-tops

  1. A few headline judgments from the appeal courts, and we are expected to believe that fathers (sorry: ‘non-resident parents’) are not so hard done by after all?

    These cases are an irrelevance — and, I have long suspected, a cynical PR exercise on the part of the courts (prompted by their government masters) to defuse criticism and deflect attention from the central issue: that the overwhelming majority of parents should not even have to set foot near a court — let alone fall into the clutches of family lawyers — in order to continue raising their children following separation or divorce.

    UK family law is perverse: one parent seizes possession of the children, while the other has to go (wallet-in-hand, of course) before a cabal of self-serving apparatchiks in order to attain some quantum of ‘contact’ with their own offspring.

    This is an obscenity, wouldn’t you agree? And not only an abuse of parents, but also of the very children whose ‘best interests’ the system, laughably, purports to represent?

    • I think the legal system is still very behind.

      I looked forward to being a dad so much, when I did my ex cheated and got caught. She use my son as leverage and left one day forcing me to take her back. He was only 7 months when I lost him. I fought and paid alot of money to get 2 days a week. Unfortunately she hasn’t been sentenced or anything. I hold a very disgusting emotion for this women and alike. Unfortunately the courts need to realise that the cause of seperation should be a factor in defining who the resident parent should be subject to being capable. It’s that simple. Normally a father can fight and get his son back but the law will just lock him up. It’s like the law has closed all the doors so the only way to resolve the matter is to empty your pockets. The reason family law exists is because the fathers are forced to turn to courts otherwise my fist would have done better justice.

      • I am sorry you are not able to see your son as much as you would like (or at all?) but I am rather concerned at your violent turn of phrase. I don’t imagine such language will assist your cause.

      • Tell me about it , 3 years over and over 30000pounds , got mu order on the 4th September its the 23/12/2015 now still haven’t seen them

        • I am reading all about these topics. While I travel through the same path as many of us are doing. The reality is, that I don’t think it ever ends. After all, it is about the children. While we are all emotionally involved we tend to forget that and think it’s about us.
          The legal system is not perfect. No system ever is. But everybody needs to remember that it is about our children. Sure there are lots of allegations that get thrown around. Each must be investigated, it has to be that way for the safety of the child.
          While on my journey I saw a great change in the legal system, I am pleased to report that as a father it worked very well for me. Yet the biggest change that I saw prior to that was in myself, and how I dealt with things. It cost me a lot of money in legal fees. I can’t help wondering now, if I had changed earlier, would it have cost me less. The answer is yes.
          I know it’s a really hard thing to do. But I found it amazing, as soon as I had changed, the results also changed, things in the court started to change. I felt that I was being listened to, considered and most important heard. It then as a matter of course also demonstrated that it was my sons mum that was messing around.
          She still is out of interest. But I deal with it in a completely different way. And that means I get loads of quality time with my son.
          For all of you on this journey. Please remember it is about the children. All we are here to do, is prove that we care more about our children than we do ourselves. And that in the interests of our children we will do whatever is needed to make sure we get on with the other parent. No matter how hard or impossible that might seem today. To all of you keep at it and don’t give up

          • Thanks for your comment Stephen. Your ex may be doing her bit to frustrate your contact, but it can never hurt to look at your own behaviour and what you can change to try and make progress. It’s good to hear from someone who has worked that out and seen the benefits. Best of luck with it.

      • I personally believe the family courts need to look at the relationship and his role as a father before separation. Some men, use the courts to victimize the mothers to regain control, thus keep making applications. I have always made my children available for fathers contact, but still the father uses the courts to obtain his own needs to get what he wants, not what is necessary best for the children. Family court is the only court where the mother has to sit with her perpetrator and be cross examined by him. Its a disgrace in this day and age. Look at the relationships these men have with these children before the breakdown of marriage. If it shows he was a good father then, he will continue to be one !

    • Thank God for sensible people like yourself blog4justice I’m so pleased to see someone with a half a brain realising it isn’t all black and white!! I’m astounded by the above ‘cases’ I’ve just read through. Being a mother myself and putting up with an absent erratic and unreliable father is nuisance to both my child and myself. His excuse for missing his contact this week was the fact he got arrested and was locked up for the day! I’m still expected to preserve with this man as it is best for my child. Rubbish. He’s a drug user with a criminal record (violence included) who can’t stick to an arrangement. Yet still this is considered best for my daughter who is bright healthy and polite!

    • Women go threw the same thow not as often but im goin threw it with both my children as i wright this i feel for parents who are striped of there rights to be in their childrens lives

  2. Sigh…I’m disappointed. Not surprised. But I am disappointed. I was hoping for a ‘Thanks for posting these cases for our dads to see and use – these cases are really good news but this kind of approach is not adopted often enough. We need to work towards educating the judiciary and the legal profession to follow the lead that these cases take so that fathers are able to play a full and proper role in their children’s lives’. But I really can’t say that was what I was expecting to get in my comments box. Nope, what I was expecting (pretty much word for word) appears above.

    Why is it that even ‘pro-father’ cases receive the same kind of vitriolic response?

    These few cases tend to suggest that the courts are not as biased against fathers as you and others might have us believe, although of course this is a very small sample of cases. And I accept that what they don’t prove is that the courts get it right ALL the time (even if we knew what ‘getting it right’ was). Indeed I wouldn’t be the one to suggest that they do always get it right.

    You might legitimately argue that these cases are not representative of the prevailing approach, but I really don’t see how you can say they are an irrelevance. I would have expected an organisation like f4j, which is (I assume) committed to helping fathers get justice (rather than to wingeing for the sake of it), to welcome any signs of a shift in judicial attitude and to grasp every opportunity to utilise that for the benefit of its members.

    You suggest that the overwhelming majority of parents ‘should not even have to set foot near a court’ – I’m sure most sensible people would agree that it would be great if none of us had to go to court. But the reality is that parents very often do not agree about how their children should be raised after separation, so what are you suggesting should replace the court system where other methods of resolving dispute have failed?

    Is your point simply that parents should not be going to court because – what? because these disputes do not warrant court involvement because there is one right answer which can be magically arrived at by waving about the proposition that a child has a right to see her father FULL STOP? The logical extension of this of course is that in any dispute of this kind the Mother is going to be in the wrong regardless of the individual facts, and that therefore that judicial consideration of the issue is a perverse exercise from the start?

    If so, how and by whom should these disputes between parents be resolved if not the courts?

    And how credible are arguments for parity of treatment between mums and dads when you cannot accept that sometimes the answer is unpalatable to dad and that sometimes Mum is talking sense? Do you want equality or do you just want to have it your way?

    Or is your point that the court system itself is the problem? If so – these cases MUST be highly relevant as at least some evidence of reform? Not to mention helpful ammunition for Fathers in other cases before the courts (I use cases like these in court on behalf of Fathers I represent, and to warn my Mum clients of the possible consequences of frustrating contact).

    I sense that cases like this are difficult for f4j to respond to because to accept that the courts are capable of getting it right in these cases might suggest that they are also capable of getting it right in others (including cases where the ‘right’ answer is less favourable to the father)? And accepting that SOMETIMES the Mother is ‘in the right’ and that SOMETIMES the Father is something which is a little more difficult to formulate into a soundbite?

    F4j has done a lot to raise the profile of these issues and I suspect has played a part in focusing many a judge’s mind so that this kind of decision is now more commonplace. But if f4j are unable to respond constructively to positive shifts in the way the courts deal with these cases, and if f4j can’t accept that these cases are not susceptible to a one-size-fits-all approach, their credibility – and influence – will wane. You can keep saying how hard done by fathers are (as you do in your comment above, relegating the obligatory reference to child abuse and ‘best interests’ to almost a post-script) but the more you focus on poor old dad the more self-evident it is that the campaign has never been as much about the needs of the child as the demands of the father. But then I suppose we’re back to the beginning again?

    • I am so grateful for these cases being posted. My partner has two children and the minutes of agreement has been breached twice alone this week by the mother of his children, meaning he has not seen his children in over week and may not see his son for his birthday. On top of this, the constant harrassment received from my partners ex is unbearable and it is so reassuring that out there, there are similar cases and Father’s views are being heard and considered!

      • Hi, when parents fall out and need to go to court for access ect then at least base the findings on real facts, then maybe it would create a fair finding for both parents, cafcass just add to the sadness and make the whole situation a laughing stock with there biased reports of what they think, remember the man loses everything anyway house ect, but not seeing the kids aswell and 9 times out of 10 some arsehole moves into the mans home with his kids and the father can’t even see them properly, the system is one big cruel joke

        • Your right Caff Cass make things worse and even lie in there reports but its so sad that no one or a Judge can see threw this there are some very bad Caff Cass Officers who make there own decisions and make things worse than what they are

        • Not all is the truth, I left my ex with 4 bags, found my own home for our children, asked nothing of him other than to see his kids, later a caution of battery he recieved after I refused him entry to my home, in 2016 my son reported him to nspcc for pyshical abuse and his siblings, ss got involved he got a couple of warnings of chastisement, he ignored, I stopped contact after a family holiday with him, as my kids said they had been hit, I reported to the police ss got involved again, statements where taken from the children, caffcass failed they didnt even speak the kids, my son even wrote a letter to the jidge asking him not to make them see him,they didn’t want contact, it went to court of course he denied it, but signed a court promise not to come to our home or in our road, the judge warranted contact which I had to work so hard with the kids to do, he breached on the first date, no remorse!! After 3rd date which I agreed to change times to suit him he breached again, then he cancelled the next two contacts and hasn’t bothered with his kids for 15mths, I’m not chasing a man that does not financially support, emotionally support or can stick to a court order.. Why should I? My kids don’t want to see him and 1 is still in councilling… So it’s not all mums that stop contact, but it seems he’s more happy bringing his girlfriends kids up and paying for all inclusive holidays 2/3 times a year, I say good luck to them and the day my kids want contact that’s up to them and I will support them all the way, but please peeps don’t judge us all the same.

      • Selena Mitford

        As above. Thank you.

        • Selena Mitford

          Sorry my reply, ‘as above’ was to Student A. Same experience as her and thank you for the cases you showed.

  3. “Why is it that even ‘pro-father’ cases receive the same kind of vitriolic response?”

    Vitriolic? We are not a family court now: people don’t speak in polite euphemisms out here in the real world.

    We approach these cases from opposing perspectives: you, as a system insider whose social capital is invested in an apparatus whose basic premise is that fathers are second-class parents fit only for some more or less marginal role in their kids’ lives (depending upon the severity of their perceived flaws and Mother’s willingness to comply with the diktats of the court); myself, as somebody who was unfortunate enough to fall down the family court rabbit-hole, and who sees it in all its absurdity.

    “We need to work towards educating the judiciary and the legal profession to follow the lead that these cases take so that fathers are able to play a full and proper role in their children’s lives’.”

    Sod that. Let’s just introduce a presumption of equal parenting.

    “I would have expected an organisation like f4j, which is (I assume) committed to helping fathers get justice (rather than to wingeing [sic] for the sake of it), to welcome any signs of a shift in judicial attitude and to grasp every opportunity to utilise that for the benefit of its members.”

    First off, I don’t speak for F4J (I am no longer even a member). I speak for equality and for the right of children not to be half-orphaned by the state.

    Within the blinkered logic of the family court, of course, these cases might appear to represent some kind of progress (although there is nothing dramatically new in these as far as I can see), and I am sure there are some fathers who will be pathetically grateful for this. I, on the other hand, see them as nothing more than the fiddling of an embattled judiciary trying to prop up a fundamentally corrupt system.

    “what are you suggesting should replace the court system where other methods of resolving dispute have failed?”

    “there is one right answer which can be magically arrived at by waving about the proposition that a child has a right to see her father FULL STOP?”

    A child should have the right to be raised by both her parents equally, FULL STOP. Do you object to this principle?

    Alternatives to the current system are laid out in the F4J Blueprint, previously discussed on this blog (‘Open Justice – Closed Forum’, 14th August). Have you still not read it?

    “The logical extension of this of course is that in any dispute of this kind the Mother is going to be in the wrong regardless of the individual facts, and that therefore that judicial consideration of the issue is a perverse exercise from the start?”

    “how credible are arguments for parity of treatment between mums and dads when you cannot accept that sometimes the answer is unpalatable to dad and that sometimes Mum is talking sense?

    You assume that it is a mother’s prerogative (and a mother’s alone) to exercise her veto over a father’s relationship with his child. And yet the gynocentric prejudice apparent in your comments is completely unconscious, isn’t it, so deeply have you internalised the values by which the family courts operate?

    If one parent wants to challenge the equality of the other, then they had better have compelling reasons to do so, and they had better be able to produce evidence which would stand up to proper scrutiny.

    The overwhelming majority of what the courts deal with now is chickenshit: petty allegations based on nothing more than hearsay. You know it, and I know it. This is what keeps you in business — busying yourself answering questions which no sane person would think of asking in the first place.

    “Do you want equality or do you just want to have it your way?”

    Equality. No ifs or buts, no compromises.

    “Or is your point that the court system itself is the problem?”

    Ah, the penny drops.

    “the campaign has never been as much about the needs of the child as the demands of the father”

    This is rich: the courts systematically conflate the wishes of the mother with the welfare of the child, and when the excluded parent objects, he is condemned as selfish (demonstrating, by implication, why his exclusion was justified in the first place). Sorry, but that mangy old dog just won’t hunt.

    P.S. If you enabled paragraph breaks on this site, the discussion would be a lot easier to follow.

  4. Blog4Justice – sorry for treating you as F4J when you are not. My goof.

    I don’t disagree with your proposition about equal parenting rights – as a general rule (although I do think its often impractical to carve up a child’s time into exact 50% pieces, but thats detail). But I do disagree that it is ALWAYS the right answer. In some individual cases it is not. Children and their parents are all individuals and it is doing families an injustice to treat them all the same.

    What I do think is that resident parents are treated in the same way whether they are mums or dads, and similarly with non-resident parents. Of course the majority of resident parents are Mums and vice versa, but my point is that if there is any ‘bias’ its in favour of the resident parent not the mum per se.

    On a couple of things you say:

    ‘If one parent wants to challenge the equality of the other, then they had better have compelling reasons to do so, and they had better be able to produce evidence which would stand up to proper scrutiny.’ Yes I agree, but I suspect you won’t agree with me when I say that the courts do their best to enforce this. I spend a lot of time telling female clients ‘if you think that is going to be enough to get you out of contact you’d better think again’ (not in quite those terms of course).

    ‘The overwhelming majority of what the courts deal with now is chickenshit: petty allegations based on nothing more than hearsay.’ There’s a lot of it about. I do think that most of the time the courts recognise such doo-doo for what it is, but unfortunately it takes time to get to that point. And in my experience mums and dads are equally good (or bad) at the production of your so-called ‘chickenshit’. Parents who have split disagree, and often hate each other. Thats the reality. Someone has to unpick that – but you can’t stop it.

    Beyond that: we disagree. Pretty fundamentally. Is there much point in arguing? Its late and its been a long day…

    PS I can’t work out how to enable paragraph breaks (sorry) – any hints from other wordpressers gratefully received.

  5. Matthew Stannard

    When I attempted to cite DvD in my own case some years ago as an objection to the notion of “contact” as opposed to normal life, I was told that the circumstances of that case were slightly different from my own and hence that it didn’t count. Precedent in family law generally doesn’t operate (unless you are a mother seeking leave to remove and citing Payne v Payne, which precedent will last until Thorpe retires, no doubt), as each case is supposed to rest on its own merits. Judges can ignore previous cases because they have complete discretion in family cases. So, whilst the cases cited by familoo above are interesting and, perhaps, encouraging, they are meaningless, particularly if you are in some provincial court where the judges tend to operate to their own arcane rules. Appeals on the grounds of inhumanity are likely to fail, as did the ones above.

  6. You’re right – family cases are very fact sensitive so often authorities are not directly applicable. And you are right that there is a broad discretion to enable judges to fit the decision to the peculiar facts of a case. Of course this does make it difficult to challenge a decision but its not the same as an unlimited discretion – if that were the case no appeal could ever succeed!

    Judges who operate on their own arcane rules ought in the right circumstances to be appealable – often though the cost and practicalities of an appeal mean that local or off-track practice is not challenged. Thats why these and other appeal judgments are important – they are cases where local Judge’s views have been scrutinised and either approved or corrected. IF it can be shown that one of these cases is applicable a Judge in a county court is BOUND to follow them and a failure to do so will be appealable.

  7. Season Ticket Holder


    you missed out my own favourite, re C (a child) 2006 Civ 235.
    which provides a checklist for this ‘paradigm’ case.

    It doesn’t change residence totally, but it does provide a shared residence order in the face of one parent’s hostility.

    Whilst posting, I’d like to note that one thing which has struck me over the last year or so is the complete lack of overlap between two sets of complaints.

    First, so many resident parents, usually mothers, complain on chat boards about the failure of the ‘contact’ adult to fulfil their responsibilities, and the fact that although a court can order a parent to make a child available, they can do nothing to ensure that the adult complies.

    Second, so many non-resident adults (surely they can hardly be termed a ‘parent’ if they are denied the parental role) are fighting, through the courts, to be allowed to meet all of their responsibilities towards their children, in the face of a resident parent who wants to exclude them.



  8. STH – It is interesting how different individuals treat parenthood so differently. I guess there are as many resident parents out there genuinely wanting their ex to play a part in their children’s lives as there are non-resident parents wanting to be allowed that involvement – but whether they are from the same families is the real question! There’s also a whole load of parents whose attitudes are the exact opposite.

  9. Season Ticket Holder

    I suspect you may not have the opportinuty to form a balanced view here, and I do hope I do not give offence by saying this.

    My suspicion comes about because I cannot imagine many resident parents coming to see you about the fact that the other parent does not fulfil their responsibilities – there is nothing that the law can do here in matters other than the financial one. On the other hand, a parent being prevented from playing the parental role they want does have the possibility of some form of redress in the law (no matter how well or how badly the system works), and hence you may get to see some of these people.

    Similarly, judges will only see cases where a parent is trying to fulfil their parental role in the face of opposition from the other parent, and not all of those cases where the parent is neglecting their responsibility. How, therefore, can a judge properly assess the position of the applicant if they are unable to see them in the appropriate context?

    Although the call for a presumption of shared residence as the starting point when parents separate is almost invariably couched in terms of the child’s right to have their father as an equal-status parent (generally mislabelled as ‘father’s rights’) the other side of the coin is that a starting point of equality would surely make it clear to BOTH parents that BOTH have a responsibility to their child.


  10. You are right that I only see a certain subset of parents in my job and that the majority of applicants want to exercise their responsibility in the face of opposition. Although there are a minority of cases where an application is not made out of a sense of responsibility as much as a bizarre power or mind game with the other parent (sometimes there is a bit of both). Odd as it sounds some people do make applications to the court without being willing or able to take full responsibility for their child’s needs – but clearly this is not the usual scenario.

    Incidentally both parents DO have a responsibility towards their child regardless of applications to the court (in the case of fathers always (financially) via the CSA and usually via parental responsibility which the majority of parents of young children will now have (or will be able to acquire)).

    The legal position doesn’t seem to make all parents actually take that responsibility on board though, does it? If only it were that simple…

  11. i have to write an essay on this particular sensitive topic and am engrossed om these comments,especially those by ‘familoo’, i still dont know what to think, historically fathers were the ‘Kings’ of the households, so to speak thus in charge of children and family, during the last century it is being recognised that mothers tend to be the primary caregivers, but do dads now lose out when it comes to custody of children?should dads have more rights?is the law in its application unjustly weighted in favour of mothers?should childrens time be more equally divided between parents?would this be a positive change and if so for whom?

    these are just some of the issues im considering,and would be grateful for some input from everyone?

  12. I think first of all you need to examine your proposition that historically fathers were the ‘kings’ of the household.

    You may find that a little reading explodes that particular myth. What do you mean by ‘king’ – a holder of power? What sort of power? Owner of property, chattels (including spouse) or legal rights, religious or moral authority, breadwinner / holder of purse strings? I”m pretty sure there are many historic examples of social and cultural set ups where the wife / mother has been the effective holder of power in a household, both in terms of her central place in the management of relationships between family members and through her economic contributions. I’m no historian but I believe if you look at the feudal system and more recently at the role of women in households during the first and second world wars you will find two such examples. You will also find many examples of matriarchal family set-ups in literature.

    There was an interesting article / review on this topic in G2 a month or two ago I think. If I find the reference I’ll post it.

    I would question if fathers were the kings of the household, I’m not sure what that means. If they were, was that a good thing? If they are no longer, what has changed and why?

    And what do models of parenthood or family roles primarily based upon authority and dominance mean from the perspective of a child?

  13. Thank you very much!

    Much needed!

  14. NB I have edited this comment partly because it is long and partly to make absolutely sure that the writer does not accidentally publish data which identifies the child concerned, which would be a contempt. I have marked with a […] where i have removed detail. Familoo.

    On reading the cases at the top it sounds as tho things are getting better for fathers and the right choices are being made but i dont feel that things are getting better i meet fathers all the time who have been denied contact with there children by the mothers most of the time they are denied for the stupidest of reasons.

    i myself am going through the courts because i was denied contact with my daughter simply because she wanted to change her name to the boyfriend she was living with at the time and she hoped over time she could do this by saying i was an absent father i made numerous phone calls and sent letters asking to please let me see her however this did not help so i decided not to waste anymore time and went to a solicitor for advise in an attemp to sort things out avoiding court lots of letters were sent out to the mother including asking her to attend mediation but heard nothing back
    eventually we ended up having going to court to which she did turn up and made a different excuse as to why she stopped me seeing her! no allegations were made against me contact had stopped since the […] and it was now the […] the judge was only willing to give me 1 hour on a sunday with the mother present which she did her best to ruin over time things have increased to every other weekend from friday till sunday which is much better however there has been alot of weekends she has not brought her over i was given a court order for christmas 2008 to have her […] which i did not see her! her mother made the excuse that my daughter did not want to come over.

    she has said many horrible things to my daughter over the years including

    that im not her real dad her boyfriend is.

    that daddy has tried to get her locked up(because i asked for a penal notice to be attached because she breaks the court orders when it suits her).

    […]daddy doesnt care.
    i could write page after page of problems ive had and things that have been said all of the things that have been said to her are terrible things to say and are untrue im really worried about the damage that is being done to my daughter while she lives with the mother. my daughter loves me very much and i love her with all my heart and it breaks my heart to be told by my daughter what her mother and boyfriend say about me my family and my girlfriend.

    unfortunatly the courts really are not interested in doing the right thing infact the last time we went to court she fluttered her eye lids at the judge and told him a pack of lies saying everything was fine when it wasnt to which the judge turned on me saying i was wasting his time and that he could take away my contact with my daughter and that i was just as much to blame for all of this as the mother was.

    i never got the chance to speak to tell him things were not fine and that she was telling lies i walked out of court feeling robbed! to make things clear here i have never said a bad word to my daughter about her mother i have always been nice for my daughters sake and have paid her child maintenance without fail up until now because […] i cannot afford to pay the normal rate and by no surprise she has stopped me seeing her again!

    please does anyone have any advise for me?

    • No easy answers: Keep plugging on and don’t lose heart. Ask your solicitor / barrister if there are any avenues which have not yet been explored – can they try a fresh approach? Best of luck.

  15. hi again
    ive spoken with my solicitor and i have been given the option of attending a different court in my area however i have been warned the same judge as i have at the moment also resides there as well so i could end up with the same judge handling the case.

    the problem i have is i feel the judge has made his mind up on the case and is more in favour of the mother than myself which i feel is crazy as i have done nothing wrong.

    as i mentioned above i was told by the judge i could lose all contact with my daughter and that i was just as much to blame as the mother which is absurd because i only went to court to get contact with my daughter as all other avenues had failed.

    i really feel that the legal system has failed in my case like so many others and i would like the case to be dealt with by a different judge is there anything i can do to ensure i see a different judge?

    and is there anything else you think i could do to help my situation?

    many thanks for your time

    • Because of restrictions on the way that barristers operate I can’t advise you about your case on this blog, and it would be silly for me to do so without all the information. Your solicitor is better placed than I am to advise you. Also, I don’t really understand what you say about changing courts – a case will usually proceed in the court nearest to the child’s home and a party is not able to pick and choose location or judge, so I’m not sure what your solicitor has in mind.

      But on your general question about how someone can get their case heard before a different judge I can make some general remarks which might be useful to other readers too: Occasionally if a judge has a conflict of interest or where it might be perceived to that he was biased he will recuse himself (i.e. stand down from the case) but this is relatively unusual and wouldn’t ordinarily happen just because a judge disagrees with one party (after all they disagree with parties all the time because it’s their job to decide on disputes). It is always open to a party to indicate to a judge that there is a perception of bias and ask the Judge to recuse himself but this is a risky practice particularly in a local court circuit where the numbers of judges are limited and the judges will tend to all have a similar approach to their cases – a party would run the risk of ending up stuck with the same judge and even less popular, or of finding that his colleague is no more favourable. If a case is coming up for final hearing and is listed for the hearing of evidence a judge might be more open to the politely worded submission that since he has expressed a strong view of the case it would be more appropriate for the matter to be heard by a colleague. But often a judge who has a strong view on a case will want to reserve it to him in order to ensure that it is dealt with in the way that they think appropriate. So there is no easy solution to this, although it helps to have a solicitor who is familiar with local listing practices, judges working patterns and court staff.

  16. My ex and I split before she knew she was pregnant. I was told when she was 5 months into it. Since that day over 7 years ago i have done everything (and I mean EVERYTHING,) to try and keepa good atmosphere for my son to grow up in.

    My ex has refused contact for up to 6 months at a time, never turned up to any of 9 court hearings, never cited a reason for any disruption, provided obstacle after obstacle in my relationship with my child, and even recently abandoned my child to a step parent in order to start a new family. She has never worked and ‘breeds’ to move into larger council properties. The step parent is just as bad.

    The court has only ever made 1 judgement in her absence, and that was never enforced despite applications to the court. I am not even likely to get residence, as moving a 7 yr old child 30 miles is apparently more distressing then the current situation; despite the childs constant please to be moved from the situation.

    I know this is only my personal case, but after 7 years i pretty much get the feeling you can take the worst mother in the world, and the father can put the child first endlessly and go through hell to maintain contact, and the courts will still treat you as a sub par parent because you have a penis. It’s a disgusting system that leaves loving parents broke and emotionaly sick, and resident mothers who can do everything necessary to show they have no interest in the childs welfare get everything handed on a plate.

  17. i am in a court case right now fighting to see my 3 sons my baby mother repeatedly brakes contact and brakes court orders but she has never been help in contempt why? she almost had me arrested saying i gave my oldest son a black eye which turned out merely to be a sty which caused redness of the eye and still she gets away with it what can i do to stop this stupid behaviour if every one is on her side because she is a struggling single mum of 3 boo hoo i would like to gain residence over my children as they are forever saying they hate their mum and her new partner and i keep getting told they smack my children which is not on if anyone has some really good advice for me please email me at [I have edited out your email addres in case this makes your children identifiable. Lucy] thank you

  18. Please help me I have just received notification via my Solicitors that my daughters father wants to serve me with an enforcement order. I have never gone against my Court Order and feel this is madness, he states that it’s because I am late even though if truth be known thats him and that I am unflexible with telephone contact but he hasn’t rung her for the past 4 weeks? surely she isn’t expected to just sit around and wait for him to ring when he can be bothered?
    What can I do it’s total rubbish and I cannot afford Court again, will be the 3rd time.

    Thanks in advance for your help

    • You need to speak to your solicitors for advice about the particular facts of this case. And you need to not panic.

      For reference an enforcement order is an order that you undertake community punishment, but it is not a criminal conviction. You cannot be sent to prison under an enforcement order. It can only be made if the court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt you are in breach and there is a defence if you have a reasonable excuse for not complying. See s11J Children Act 1989.

      By way of general guidance, if you are unable to afford solicitors you may find it helpful to write down a list of when contact was due and what happened on each date – whether it took place and if not why not, and if late why. Don’t write an essay. Take 3 copies to court with you (one for you, one for him, one for the judge). Even better send it to him (or his solicitors) and the court in advance. That way even if you are representing yourself and get tongue tied the judge will be able to piece together what has preceded the application.

      If you don’t have a lawyer you might like to take a friend into court for support (they can’t speak on your behalf but can sit next to you and assist you). Tell court staff and the judge you want to bring a ‘McKenzie friend’ into court. Don’t bring someone who will not be able to behave themselves at court!

      I’m afraid that is only very general guidance, if you want specific advice about your case and the details of it you will have to instruct a solicitor – rules prevent me from advising the public direct.

      Good luck though.

      • Familoo

        Thanks for that but the thing is contact has never been broken and telephone contact was never refused he just decided not to ring. He apparently states he is doing this because of my attitude, is that possible? and I never have an attitude I’m just sick of him taking to me to court again when he gets bored. I read up on this and I’m appalled to find I could end up doing community service even though I work part-time 4 days a week and have 2 small children or could even be liable to pay him compensation. Why and how is he allowed to do this, I have never stood in the way of him spending time with my daughter as I feel this is important for her. What can I do?

        • I’m afraid I can’t really add much to my previous response because I’m prohibited from offering legal advice to you direct. I suggest that even if you don’t have the finances to secure representation to deal with further hearings that you try and find the funds to meet with your solicitor for an hour or so to get some advice on how to handle applications of this kind and what measures they can suggest to discourage or limit such applications in future. I don’t think they’ll have any magic solutions but they will be able to advise you better than I can because they will have all the information to hand. You may find this document helpful.

        • the sky is blue

          My ex partner has raped me to make me have my second child. The whole 6 year was he’ll. He beat me raped me. Beat our 3/4 year old girls. So I disagree for all fathers to have the same rights. On may 2nd last year he raped me because I wouldn’t give him money but it was the last straw for me and I told him I was leaving him for good he told me if I did he’d rape my kids. I found out after that he had mental health issues before I meet him but this I don’t care about now I’m been taking through courts and the social worker don’t care what he has done.. I do agree there are some good dad’s out there but the courts now to look at the facts in every case. Each family is very different and ther are lots of evil man in the world that can put the wool over social worker eyes

  19. Alledged Murderers have rights in court .and are presumed innocent untill proven guilty.Non resident parents (of which 98.9 percent are the fathers)and the overwhelming majority of the mothers who are not the resident parent are not simply because they did not wish to be, have no rights and the opposite is assummed .Please do not try to convince me otherwise because I have been there am there and will still be for quite a few years yet untill my kids are old enough so that the state cannot dictate to them whether they can choose to see their dad whenever they want .On a possitive note this does increase my faith in there being a God because the beleif that one day the perpetraters of such wickedness will be called to account .Somehow gets me through it all intact battered but intact


    • Whilst alleged criminals of all kinds are presumed innocent they are usually remanded in custody or on bail where the nature of the crime is such that there is a possible risk to the public. Non resident parents are not assumed to be guilty of anything but where allegations are made the courts have to take the same approach as criminal courts and protect those who may be at risk if the allegations are true. It is a frustrating and slow process, but the attempt to highlight a contrast or contradiction as between the approach of criminal and family courts is, I think, misplaced.

  20. I think thats great Familoo and many thanks for posting. I am dealing with a sociopathic mother who has never considered her childrens feelings and has stopped contact at every possible opportunity. I am now taking steps for an Enforcement Order with a Contempt Of Court order attached so any subsequent breaches will be punishable by imprisonment. It may be small steps that the Courts are taking, but my guess is that as more and more precedents are set then it will become an avalanche

  21. Does a contact order apply in Scotland? My husband has a Minute of Agreement in place that the mother frequently breaches, after spending time money and effort getting the MOA sorted out, he is no further forward. After some digging on the internet I think the next step should be a contact order, but after what i have read dont think this may be worth it either if its unlikely to be enforced (and she will breach it) Any positive stories about contact orders, give some hope!

    • Tracy, unfortunately I’m not qualified to give legal advice in respect of Scottish law and I don’t give legal advice through this blog. I’m not quite sure from what you say whether your husband or the child (or both) is in Scotland or if one is in one jurisdiction with the other across the border. I suggest that your husband seeks the advice of a Scottish family lawyer or even better a dual qualified family lawyer.

  22. Hi yes he already has a solicitor, they don’t come cheap though! Havnt really got another 3k to bandy around at the moment which is why I was enquiring about the likelyhood of it being enforced if it gets breached to see if its worth commiting to spending yet more cash. Feel a bit cheated tbh as the M.O.A is worthless and he is still at the mercy of the mothers mood swings and doesnt know if hes getting the child come pick up time until he physically has hold of him which is the situation he is trying to avoid in future by a judge ruled contact order. Thanks for your reply.

  23. I have just read the article and have to say this is not my experience of the family court. I would be delighted if it was, sadly it seems that judges aren’t prepared to push through when a contact order is being abused. I have hoped for some time the bullying and abuse I have had to endure would slow down after taking my ex to court, but no, it has made the matter worse and our children are fed the same lies as the judges who we have sat before.
    Surely there has to be a better way for the family court to follow through when a contact order is being so abused.
    What about having a ‘Family Court Enforcement Agency’? This would lighten the work load on the family court system and parents would feel that there was some worth to the empty contact orders that they walk away with.

    • I sympathise. It doesn’t always work as it ought. And we do need to look at ways to make it function better.

      However, I’m not sure I’d want to model any solution on the Child Support Agency! And I don’t really see how you can have orders made by judges but enforced by an external agency – who reviews orders where there is a change of circumstances that means a child’s welfare requires a variation in the order? The court does have the power to make enforcement orders and punish by fine, compensation order, unpaid work requirement, committal – but I don’t suppose such powers would be any more effective placed in the hands of a faceless agency than they are in the hands of a court.

  24. One-sided as usual.
    What about resident fathers and nightmare mothers?
    My husband’s ex-wife is a chronic alcoholic. She removed herself from the home when my step-daughter was 9 weeks old. She was completely incapable of caring for a child. She has since lived in rehab hospitals, supported housing and the gutter. She has not seen the child for 5 years and has never made any financial contribution to her upbringing. She has been granted legal aid 4 times to bring contact applications to court. The first time she did not maintain agreed contact, turning up drunk or not at all. The second time she did not maintain supervised contact, turning up drunk or not at all, The 3rd time she was only allowed indirect contact subject to certain provisos which she has not adhered to. Indirect contact has been inappropriate. She has now been granted legal aid for the 4th time for yet another contact application. My husband, after everything he has been through with her and raising the child alone, is now being dragged through the court process for the 4th time. After the past history he now opposes contact, even though in the past he has always tried to encourage and accommodate contact. He gets spoken to like a piece of scum by her poker-arsed, paid-for barrister and the court seem to pussyfoot around the mother and treat him like the criminal. It’s absolutely disgraceful. There should be an end to this stressful and ridiculous cycle of contact applications. Where is the benefit to the child in all this?

  25. I spent five years on family court fighting for a contact order for my daughter.

    [Steve I’ve edited out most of the detail you have included here because I don’t generally publish details of individual court cases on this blog. Lucy]

    I feel pretty sad because I love my daughter very much and i really look forward to my conatct weekends and I had fought so hard for her but I am left with no choice but to enter the courts again – which will be played out to my daughter as ” your dad bullying me” to force you to go to contact”.

    Is going for an enforcement order the right approach- I believe I have no choice if I want to see my daughter again.

    • @ Steve – its always difficult to judge whether you should make an application for an enforcement order, they may not always be the most effective way of getting things moving – in my experience they look good on paper but the court finds it difficult to make good use of them. I can’t advise you through this blog, but I think given the long history of your case it would be sensible to get some prompt legal advice to see how you can best go forwards, even if ultimately you end up representing yourself at court. Your case sounds as if it is unlikely to be suitable for direct access instruction of a barrister so if I were you I would go straight to a local solicitor with a children’s panel member as part of the team. Best of luck with it.

  26. I read with some measured hope the cases above, measured however, because my partner has been in the courts since the birth of his daughter (now 5) with his ex wife who is vehemently determined to block my partners’ shared residence order and minded to remove him from their daughters life.
    We are trying to secure a Barrister to fight our case and advise us as we feel we have explored all other legal options open to us. Meanwhile in the immediate day to day struggles we find little future hope and support to help this innocent little 5 year old girl win back some level of normal family time with the right to her Father. Why does the family court system assume the Mother is the safe good natural parent and a Father must prove his worthiness and innocence – even in the face of deliberate flouting and breaching of residence orders that are supposed to enforce a childs right to BOTH parents. When will the family law courts and social services begin to take an impartial view and ensure a child has its natural birth right to both parents. The whole corrupt process is utterly soul distroying. I can’t tell you how many days and nights my partner and I have craddled each other in desperate tears of despair and I am not surprised that some of these poor Dad’s either give up or worse still actually take their own lives.

  27. I’ve found your blog very interesting. I’m the non resident parent. I’ve recently been to court and obtained a contact order. I was a LIP and I have to say, I felt reasonably comfortably with the whole process. The magistrates gave me a contact order exactly as I proposed and seemed supportive of my case and proposal.
    On leaving court my ex has made what seems to me a very bizarre and from the research I’ve completed online, an unusual demand. I am to collect my child at the given time and at that point become the resident parent. This seems a very extreme flip flop reaction.
    In principal I would be delighted to become the resident parent, however only after sensible planning. I have responded saying that I would prefer to discuss all of this through mediation, although I attempted to establish mediation before court and am not expecting this to be agreed on, but what happens if at the end of my contact my ex refuses to allow me to return my child? It really seems a weird situation to me at the moment but would not surprise me if this happens, the last thing I want is a strange fight on the doorstep or our child to feel unwanted, I’ve been trying to find sources of information or experience but have to say that this seems to be far from the normal reaction!

    • Hello JM, I’ve had cases where something similar has been said – there isn’t really a normal reaction, although this isn’t typical for sure! I think it is sometimes a way of a parent who doesn’t really agree with or approve of an order saying “on your head be it” to the court and of passing responsibility for anything that goes wrong to the parent who has sought the order. And sometimes its an odd way of marking out how unappreciated a resident parent can feel – a bizarre way of saying that actually it’s a lot tougher being a single parent primary carer than it is come to contact regularly. It’s probably hot air and stress talking. It sounds like you are taking a sensible approach, and if you do have any difficulties at the end of contact I think you just have to play it by ear and try to defuse any tension at handover as quickly as possible.

  28. My children are being forced by the courts to see their father through supervised contact. They stopped previous (unsupervised) contact through choice because they said he was shouting, swearing and scaring them. As he has a history of violence, bullying and manipulation including towards children, I didn’t make them go again but now he is abusing us through the courts and because the children have not been able to express themselves to adult strangers at cafcass, they are now about to enter a terrible nightmare. It seems the father is more important than anyone. Hasn’t this gone too far?

  29. Hi, I have a real problem with my ex. I am the mother to my two children and the father has residency (it is a lonnnnng story but to cut it short I am perfectly capable of care of my kids..) but last year (may 2012) I allowed him residency, he was funny with my contact with the children, he would sporadically let me see them here and there where it suited him… but this year, he has let me have NO contact with them since February – everytime I text him to ask if I can have them over the weekend he sends offensive replys and gets nasty. The contact order does not state times and days for my contact, simply just “reasonable contact”. I just need to know who I should turn to or if any one has any advice. Thanks for your time

    • Hi Jo [I’ve edited your name for privacy],
      I can’t give you advice about your case via this website and you probably won’t be able to get legal aid to pay for advice, but if you were able to afford it I would suggest you try and pay for a small amount of legal advice to help you decide what to do next – that might be from a solicitor or a barrister who gives advice directly to the public. However, you could also have a think about whether mediation might help sort things for you or you can make an application to court for contact or a variation of the order even if you don’t have a lawyer – if you are on a low income you might qualify for legal aid for this, although it won’t help unless your ex is prepared to mediate, which it sounds like he might not be. You are usually expected to have thought about mediation before doing this unless it’s urgent. You could take a look at my book for people dealing with family cases without a lawyer (www.nofamilylawyer.co.uk) to get a bit of a feel for how the court process works.

  30. So depressing. I am living the same nightmare all other fathers are, regardless of location. I can not divulge any of the detail of my (and my children’s)struggle in order I can see the and my children can see their daddy. I have no respect for the judiciary, a bunch of money grabbing, lying evil advocates of pain. I will also add, the family court system here in good old Guernsey is so corrupt and anti-fathers. We (fathers)do not have the same human rights you have in the UK. All family court hearings are so so weighted against fathers, with the sitting magistrate seeking revenge on any father who dare make a stand. Equally, the level of perjury perpetrated in 99.9% of cases by lawyers, safeguarders and social workers is frightening. Why should I wait until my children reach an age whereby they can break free from the clutches of a rotten, corrupt system and an equally bitter and vengeful mother. I love my children with all my heart. I miss them every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every year. Whilst the mother and he boyfriend are protected by this rotten corrupt family court system and judiciary.

  31. Here was my legal advice: be prepared for a bill of up to £200 000 to fight, or be willing to walk away. I do not have £200 000 and I can not walk away from my children. What a joke this “legal” system is! The system comes to the rescue of women as if they are all powerless damsels in distress and men are all evil monsters. My ex has moved 5 hours away, refuses to work and is now doing another degree because she is too special and wonderful to get a job as a teacher (in which she is qualified). This seems to be totally fair and reasonable in the eyes of the law, while my desire to see my children is considered irrelevant.

    Maybe I should move to the middle east and just not pay child support. Since she has made it close to impossible for me to see my kids regularly, I don’t see the harm in this. Alternatively I can down tools, go on benefits, get legal aid and have the state pay for my fight. This is basically what my ex has done: refused to be responsible as the state and I will carry her. Seems to be a system designed for the benefit of scum-bag women who put their desire to hurt their ex over the well-being of their children. But hey, its 6 years since this article was written so something must have changed right? No? Thought not.

  32. I cannot comment on other posts but just tell my own story.

    My x left with 4 of my kids, one stayed with me, in a traumatic fashion. She claimed domestics mental abuse, one of the last ways of getting legal aid. She gave up part time work and lives of the state earning more than I do as a teacher.

    I have been to court several times and suffered the usual excuses for delays. Of course it cost me thousands .contact is hit or miss depending on her. She always says its what the children want, however, thisis not true. She was supported in the courts by a social worker…and guess what…she’s now having an affair with the social worker.

    Tomorrow I go to the courts again for contact arrangements ..maybe I will get lucky !

  33. MARK,
    I d like to say I’m shocked but I’m not! SS are crap at the best of times. Am so sorry your having to go through this. I know that doesnt help just wanted to extend my heart felt sympathy.

  34. I understand. Spent five years in family court. Finally won all the contact. The mother waited one year and then told my daughter she is “a big girll now” and encouraged her to tell Cafcass she only wants to se her Dad when she wants to. My daughter did and the judge reduced my contact from every second weekend and half the holidays a year to one Sunday per month and my daughter can add any extra days. Guess what? The mother makes sure the extra time never happens. The truth of the matter is, is that you cannot win in a court situation. The odds as a Dad are stacked up against you. I was a good Dad,and provider and the mother is the one who had the affair. So today I know I must patiently wait, love my daughter fiercely and wait some more u til she is older. It’s a tough life lesson and there is no easy answer. Simply love your children from near and afar.

  35. What happens when a mother moves in with a new boyfriend, changes her job to working full time and demands the non-resident parent who has a contact order to see his children once every week now has the children 3 nights every week to facilitate taking and picking them up from school (now 12 miles away) when she has already refused holiday contact ( should have had 14 nights over summer holiday and only allowed 6 ) and also breaks the one night a week contact order when it suits her….

    We attempted to pick up the children from her house last week and was told we are not having them – quoting “we spokent to the court and can withold contact under section 2”

    Section 2 of the Children’s Act I presume – welfare of the child??

    Can a mother do this reasonably?

    The children are happy, well-adjusted, and have so far been seeing their Dad overnight EVERY week, for the past year in line with the contact order…….

    Since moving the kids 12 miles away, and starting a new school 2 weeks ago, in conjuction with increasing her work hours the kids are suddenly “mentally scarred” by not seeing their Dad enough…..

    She is refusing our one night a week contact unless we agree to her terms and conditions of 3 nights a week which we fear she will revoke when it suits as its not covered by the safety netting of the contact order.

    She is also in breach of the court order for failing to allow us holiday dates and by also failing to attend court ordered mediation, but demanded we all sit in her house this week in front of the children to discuss which my partner refused on the grounds that it would be upsetting for the children, not mediated by a professional, and owing to her previous non-compliance with mediators….

    We are at our wit’s end…… if we go back to our solicitor and barrister, is it going to be another round of court cases, thousands more money spent, and now this time, because she is quoting the mental health of the children, I assume there will be mental health assessments and the major CAFCASS involvement.

    Any general legal suggestions would be very gratefully received by a desperate dad and a very concerned step-mum…… we cannot see the children being dragged through the courts yet again, when they are only 5 and 7 and have been happily having overnight contact with us for over a year now.

    • @ Concerned step mum – I don’t give advice through this blog on individual cases, but I can make some general comments.

      I don’t understand the reference to s2 – s2 Children Act 1989 relates to parental responsibility not contact orders – in general terms it would only really be relevant to withholding contact if a mum was the only one to hold PR and there was no contact order. Court staff do not (or should not) give legal advice. This probably only demonstrates the perils of asking for advice at the court counter.

      If an order is in place it should be kept to unless varied by agreement – if someone wishes to change it they need to make an application to court for it to be varied. s2 doesn’t entitle them to ignore it.

      I’ve no idea what the order in your case says so I can’t say how any of this would apply to you.

      Where there is a difficulty over agreeing consistent arrangements after circumstances have changed (in your case mum now working full time) people need either to talk directly, use a mediator, go to lawyers or go to court. Or live with it.

      You don’t need a lawyer to go back to court, but you will need to have been to a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) before applying back to the court – to see if the case is suitable for mediation. If the other parent does not respond to a request to attend a MIAM or refuses to mediate, it will be treated as unsuitable for mediation and you can go ahead and issue an application to court. Courts don’t ORDER people to attend mediation – it’s voluntary. They can order people to attend the MIAM.

  36. My son is currently going through the court process to secure contact with his son and what leaps out of the whole process to me is people seem to be allowed to attempt to falsely blacken the character of another out of nothing but vengeance and there is no recourse for the victims of attempted character assasination if it’s done in a family court. Until people are held accountable for telling lies about another during this process the vitriole will continue and the cases will go on and on and on.

  37. Staying contact order made Sept 2012. Ex partner (MUM) from October 2013 made own terms and conditions for contact at her house only. 1st December I stated I would be making application to enforce original order made 2012.

    The system is not fir for purpose and ex partner is not sanctioned… Only 2 weeks…YES you heard correctly.. “2” WEEKS after order was made she is in default again. I have e.mailed the court to no avail… It is absolutely Bizarre and Judges are not using powers to stop it… i have not seen children since 1st December 2013…and have 100% record of weekly contact… its not fair on the children, its an abuse of the system, disregard to court, infringing on my rights and children’s rights and No Judge enforces it.
    Just a self perpetuating Cycle of paperwork & hypocrisy.
    What would you advise? I am at end of my tether, its making me ill and I can’t do anything… Bizarre is an understatement. it appears MUMS call the shots and get away with it, Fathers get a a rough deal and have to keep applying…

    • Jye, I’m afraid don’t give legal advice through this website. I do give legal advice through other routes (see here : http://lucyreed.co.uk). But in broad terms enforcement is a difficulty – where there is persistent and repeated breach the parent seeking enforcement needs to be prepared to go back to court to enforce repeatedly, initially through enforcement orders and potentially asking for other types of orders if warranted.

      I’ve edited your comments for legal reasons because it relates to the detail of court proceedings.

  38. Thanks for replying, At least you acknowledge that repeated visits back to court to enforce an enforcement order is generally seen as run of the mill procedure. I have read on other sites that fathers have visited courts over 17 times for the same issue? at what point will a judge say enough is enough? i only got the court order on Thursday 6th Feb and applying back to court again…same forms, same court, wait 2 months for a hearing, possibly same judge… another order.. and so on and so on… there is no value i these court orders is there. if this was a criminal case for breach of bail arrest would be within days if not hrs…civil matters such as this are a kind of hidden crime, in courts that don’t enforce bad behavior. I acknowledge the story above, but that only happened after years and years of having to go through this…years of it? it takes over your life… I wonder what would happen if my kids stopped with me 1 weekend and failed to return them?… police would be here, social services, and i would be back in court within a week… Its biased against dads generally, everyone knows its true, i guess even yourself knows i am right. One simple question though, which would assist everyone on this site… i have asked this question many times to people, inc solicitors and legal advisers…” How does a parent exercise their legal rights and the rights of their children”? no-one has an answer…so what is PR? apart from a legal fiction…

    • Proper case management of protracted contact disputes is a chronic problem that the Court of Appeal is often making pronouncements on – of course those that go on appeal are usually those which have gone wrong – here is one recent example that it is worth reminding the court about Re A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104. I think courts are getting better at grasping the nettle earlier on in the process, but it does still go wrong, and non-resident parents can feel like a hamster in a wheel. Judicial continuity is important.

  39. Thank you again for your prompt reply. Just a note for your future postings…Your links to examples ” here is one recent example that it is worth reminding the court about”…The link you provide is the same colour as the background and therefore can’t be seen… I only seen it by chance when i highlighted all the text… maybe your links could be black and not the turquoise colour as it looks like there is nothing there to view… it just leaves a large blank space.
    Oh One final point, Ex partner took an out of date interim contact order dated Sept 2012 to children’s nursery to stop me attending his nativity play, misleading managers, and then went on to buy all 3 tickets.. It comes under the definition of fraud:
    Fraud is a type of criminal activity, defined as:
    ‘abuse of position, or false representation, or prejudicing someone’s rights for personal gain’.
    Put simply, fraud is an act of deception intended for personal gain or to cause a loss to another party.
    The general criminal offense of fraud can include:
    deception whereby someone knowingly makes false representation or they fail to disclose information or they abuse a position.

    I reported it to police who advised a civil matter?
    It is selfish acts such as this when ex partners do this kind of thing out of revenge, clearly done to spite the ex partner but failing to see what this is doing to the children, I think it is deemed Narcissistic!.. yet when the innocent party complains about this behavior it isn’t taken seriously….I put all this down in my enforcement and vary application but the judge never mentioned it to ex partner at directions hearing… Should I wait until April at next hearing and ” Shout it from the Rooftops”so to speak… i think its a case of stating as much as you can when you have your 1 minute to talk… Neither party is being represented by solicitors.

    • Jye thanks – had forgotten about that glitch with the colour. I had been trying to fix it but got distracted. I will get back onto it…
      I see why you may feel that the actions you describe fit the definition of fraud but its entirely unsurprising that the police are disinterested. Relevant to enforcement / contact proceedings I would have thought though.

  40. […] family court proceedings, it’s worth spending a little time reading some of the examples over at http://pinktape.co.uk which has some motivating true stories about dads being dealt with fairly by the courts over […]

  41. Hi Lucy,

    I’ve found all your blogs really interesting and the videos on Family Court without a lawyer. I need some advice, I’ve got my first court hearing in few weeks for contact order to see my daughter and am representing my self. I’ve had the cafcass phone interview and I was really shocked about the false allegations my ex made about me, cafcass officer said she has to inform the court for assessment order, what is a assessment order? how long does it take? will I get some type of contact to see my daughter? its been 6 months and I haven’t seen my daughter.


    • Hi Jay
      I can’t give you advice through this blog I’m afraid. If you want to consider instructing me you can do so via a solicitor or you can take a look here http://www.lucyreed.co.uk.
      The lady from CAFCASS is probably telling you that she is going to recommend that a report is prepared before the court makes a decision, which is not uncommon. It might be prepared by CAFCASS or if social services have been recently involved with the family, by them.
      The court will consider whether that is the right thing to do at the first hearing, but it might not have enough information to order any contact at the first hearing.
      If you want to get some advice or some representation before the first hearing it would be a good idea to make some enquiries about that sooner rather than later. There might be some free support available in your local area, for example a student run advice service. You could check with the Court or your local CAB.

      • Hi Jay, Just seen / read your message, I hope I can offer you some advice as I have just been through what you are going through. whilst I don’t know your circumstances as to why you have not seen your daughter for so long for whatever reason, or whether or not you have P.R ( parental rights) named o the birth certificate, or if you was married. [edited – see subsequent comment]
        hope that all helps you a little bit… sorry its a little long winded, but hopefully others will read also and it may help them too..
        Best Wishes to You
        And GOOD LUCK 🙂
        Stay Positive Always… its gets easier.
        You don’t need a solicitor at ALL..
        Take time doing paperwork over a cup of tea and be confident.
        Take Care.
        J.R.H July 2014

        • JRH,
          Thanks for your comment. I don’t know who you are or if you are legally qualified, but I’m afraid I’ve edited your comment to remove the advice you volunteered for two reasons:
          a) it was a comment of epic proportions which sort of messes up the threads, so I generally remove these, and
          b) (more importantly) I’m afraid there were a number of aspects of your advice that were out and out wrong on the law and applicable procedure. I would not want anyone to be misled by advice on this blog so I’ve removed it.

  42. Sorry, I misread your message Jay, Your already awaiting Court hearing? Sorry for that, i presume you went to mediation then already?… [edited – see previous comment for explanation – same reasons apply]

    Good Luck.

  43. Links:

    [edited for the same reason. i haven’t reviewed the links but on the basis of your two previous comments I’ve edited again.]
    Good Luck

  44. Lucy Reed (AKA) Familoo,
    At the bottom of this page is a link to your facebook page, I clicked on it and there are some good links to sites and video’s, however most of the links do not work. message ( database error bit.ly
    Can you fix All these links please.
    Sooo annoying..
    Little point providing useful links if they don’t work? Yes
    There are some good articles there…if only i could access them…tut tut..
    If posting links…could you then check they work before giving them out. Thankyou.

    • The links work. I am aware some of them come up with the message “database error” – I’ve been unable to establish so far why this is – but if you click on the links they do work. The links that come up with this message are all links to articles on Pink Tape, and they are all accessible directly through Pink Tape search and archive functions.

  45. To Familoo,

    Just a thought… I understand from reading these articles that you are a Barrister..as stated on your facebook page, Divorce and Family Lawyer!
    So many of the articles on this site ( which is a great site btw) of people seeking advice… But on many case blogs, you state ” I cannot give you legal advice” ?
    I think it’s great that a forum such as this is in operation, and moderated and overlooked by a Legal family Barrister, Brilliant..
    You have taken the time to be part of this forum and curtious in replying to those who have registered to be part of it. ALL GOOD

    But you go on to state that you can’t offer legal advice unless a client instructs you? Please forgive me if i am wrong, but it could be deemed that you are using this site as a platform to gain business?

    You are in a position to offer legal advice, your qualified status and registration confirms this, yes you can’t offer FREE legal advice. Emphasis on “FREE”.
    It is a little ironic, as you are well aware, that LEGAL AID has now stopped, No longer AVAILABLE. Most of the people using this site are self representing and possibly on low incomes ( not all ) but many.
    You are signposting people to services, and offering suggestions which is good, But Can We have some legal input from you for FREE? You are the font of all knowledge in such matters and we all respect that.
    Have you you considered PRO BONO work?
    As you are aware, which most people are not….PRO BONO work is someone such as yourself offering free LEGAL ADVICE.
    you would then be ABLE to offer GENERAL FREE LEGAL ADVICE…it’s worthwhile considering to help others..it’s not all about money is it?.. it’s for the CHILDREN’S SAKE..Ethically…Its very sad that people only give advice on condition that they PAY… Share your knowledge and others will follow suit…Give a Little back to the people…WE would ALL appreciate it.


    • J.R.H.,
      Thanks for this and the four other messages you have posted in the last couple of days. Can I give you a bit of background to this blog and to where it fits in to my life?

      I am a family barrister. It is my job to advise on family matters, and to represent clients. I have been able to build up a considerable amount of experience and expertise by doing the job day in and day out for over a decade. Unless you are a wealthy millionaire this is the sort of thing that can only be done if the training and time spent on the job is paid for.

      I don’t give legal advice on this blog for three reasons:
      1 Because I am not permitted by my regulator to do so. I am only permitted to carry out regulated activities or to offer services as a barrister if I am properly briefed (instructed) either through a professional client (solicitor), through the public access scheme or via a licensed access scheme. The public access scheme requires an assessment in each case of suitability and best interests before a client can be taken on. It is professional misconduct to carry out work without a proper basis of instruction.
      2 Because it would be irresponsible to do so. I do give general guidance wherever I am able to do so, but this is necessarily limited by 1 above. Any qualified lawyer will tell you it is highly unwise to attempt to give advice via a blog comment thread without seeing documents and can lead to all sorts of confusions, mix ups and errors. Legal advice is something to be given on a considered basis not off the cuff. My professional indemnity insurers would probably (rightly) disown me if I gave advice via this blog.
      3 Because I do offer a paid for service.

      So let me address your challenge to me to consider pro bono.

      Firstly, I am well aware of what pro bono is, along with much of the bar. I am a panel member of the Bar Pro Bono Unit and undertake work for free through referrals from them. This is licensed access as referred to above. Occasionally I undertake pro bono work via public access, but for various reasons this is usually not appropriate. I sometimes reduce my fees for clients who I recognise are in dire need of a service but who genuinely cannot afford it.

      Secondly, let me address your suggestion that it could be deemed that this blog is platform to gain business. Of course it is – on one level. I am not ashamed of asking to be paid (usually) for the advice and services I offer. Just like any doctor, nurse, teacher or surgeon. I openly advertise and link to my paid for services, giving information on how I can be instructed. This is no secret.

      However. The reality is that whilst Pink Tape has garnered a following over the last 7 or so years, there is no business case for it, in terms of return on investment or identifiable outcomes. It seems of late to have generated a few public access enquiries, but in truth most of these are not suitable for public access for one reason or another – either because the client cannot pay anything at all or because they are not able to carry out their own litigation (Which is a pre-requisite for public access).

      I don’t get paid to write Pink Tape. I take very limited advertising which basically defrays the cost of hosting and maintaining the blog. But when I spend hours each week writing several blog posts – nobody pays me for that. Nobody reimburses me my loss of income. Nobody sends me a client every time I write a post or read every single comment to check it for legal problems or offense. I do it for free. Pro bono if you will. I don’t do it for commercial benefit – as I’ve already identified it is a ridiculously inefficient / ineffective marketing device (I won’t go into the ways in which it has hindered as well as helped my career – let us say that blogging is not without its risks).

      It sounds from your various comments as if you’ve had a pretty good look around this site. So yes, I am well aware that legal aid has been all but abolished in private law disputes, something which I very much regret. But I still need to pay my mortgage – and I think that for doing what I do, day in and day out – both in court, and in chambers, and online – I deserve to be paid. You cannot lay at my door the government’s decision to take away legal aid from those who need it.

      So. You have probably anticipated by now that I don’t much appreciate being lectured by someone who does not have the courtesy to provide their name, who rocks up on this blog and posts a raft of critical and frankly rude comments, suggesting that I should be doing more, that I should fix this and do that, and offering vulnerable people inaccurate advice – I don’t much appreciate all of that capped off with an ethics lecture.

      I’m sitting on a campsite in Wales now. It’s my 40th birthday. This is my glamorous fat cat lawyer holiday. A tent, for a week, in Wales. It’s lovely as it happens – but this is the first time in months that I have not worked for more than a 24 hour stretch. And here I am, tending to my bloody blog, which you think could be better. And I’ve spent the better part of the last hour considering your five comments, deciding where to draw the line in terms of editing, balancing my policy to allow most things against the specific content of these blog posts. I do this day in and day out. Generally I am not rude. Today however it’s my birthday, so I am making an exception.

      I’m going to get a life now. I suggest you do the same.

  46. How rude, Maybe you just didn’t like the fact that my advice was to let people know about how to go about the procedure to allow people to represent themselves, that was the point of my advice.
    Of course you removed it for 1 simple reason: My comments were to empower people to do it for themselves. Procedures to making applications to court..self representing… Of course you removed my comments… You would be losing potential trade.. Simple as that.

    Happy Camping in Wales
    enjoy your holiday..i’m in sain’t tropez, just having a latte by the sea. They do say that life begins at 40.. So..Maybe you should change your job! …if you can only afford camping in wales.. I though Barristers were well paid! Maybe 6 figure sums arn’t enough!!! you tell me to get a life!! That made me smile.. I’m 72 and had a very good life thankyou. I invested well, hence why I can take great holidays.
    Mind them sheep won’t you..

    • No. I removed it because it was inaccurate advice. You will see plenty of other advice I do allow. If its a simple error I point it out but your comments were very lengthy and the errors were multiple so I’m afraid I just drew a line, which is my prerogative really. Anyway I don’t think further debate is likely to be helpful.

  47. I have found this an interesting blog to read! there are a lot of people out there who continue to struggle with contact agreements. I would like to say though, from my perspective, that it isn’t just the women who cause problems!!

    I was in an abusive relationship and had to leave for my own and child’s safety and emotional well being. Only upon initiating divorce did my ex take any interest in his daughter (aged 3), she is now 8.

    I agree with those who have complained about perjury in the court system, my ex was proven to be lying by several judges throughout the process, but was never even chastised! Despite my feelings towards my ex, I strive to be a good mum and like to think I put my daughters’ needs first. If she wants to ring her dad, she can. If she wants to skype him, she can. If she wants extra contact, she can (though she rarely does, she knows she can whenever), I encourage her to see her father for his contact times, despite the all too frequent complaints that she doesn’t want to go, as I think it will be her who ultimately judges him and I don’t want her to turn round when she is older and ask why I didn’t support contact.

    What do I get in return? Abusive text messages and not permitted any contact with my child when she is away, even if it is for longer periods of time or abroad. My daughter is harrassed and interrogated on a regular basis, she says things like “everyone believes the lies daddy tells about you mummy”, reproaches her for expressing her opinions with “you only say that because your mummy tells you to”, to the point of making her cry. He confiscates her mobile phone and deletes us off her skype account so she cannot contact her wider family.

    He does not provide for her emotional needs and she suffers so badly at times, especially when longer contact periods are imminent, that she shows physical signs of actual anxiety and stress and has to talk to counsellors at school. She has told teachers, doctors other adults that he doesn’t look after her very well and she doesn’t want to go. Social Services are aware but won’t do anything as we have a court order. But the courts won’t really listen to these issues and just say “we as adults have to communicate” – but you cannot communicate with a narcissitic domestic abuser who uses the contact and court system to continue the abuse.

    So what option do I as the mother have ? I have to watch my daughter suffer, as the fathers ‘right to contact’ is more important than her actual welfare, pick up the pieces and notch off the days until someone will actually listen to her and take note.

    There are many wonderful dads out there who are denied contact on the most spurious grounds, and then ones like my daughters, who don’t appreciate what they have.

    • The one comment above that fits my own situation and no advice! I’m going to stop contact despite the order as he is just like your ex and now wants half of all holidays when my daughter can only spend 4 days at most with him. I’m hoping CAFCASS will then intervene and hear it from my daughter directly. No , I haven’t coached her ..these are her feelings at 10 yrs.

      • I wouldn’t bank on CAFCASS hearing what your child has to say as they will say they have been coached and that you are being obstructive and this will have an impact on your child’s emotional development I could go on, as I am a grandmother having to sit back and watch my grandchild being forced to meet they’er dad when they have made it clear statements that they don’t want too. I also have to put up with them shouting at me, I’m not listening, as daddy smacked them and hurt their bum, he shouts in their face. However, according to a CAFCASS worker this is not illegal and the mother stopping contact will emotionally impact on my grandchild more and that the mother should punished by the Courts. I believe this has come about because the mother disagreed with the CAFCASS worker and probably my statement where I mention that I have had over 30 years of working working with child and family in the Local Authority and Voluntary sector. Unfortunately, the mother(who also has much knowledge and training in Safe Guarding) has learned the hard way that professional don’t like to be told their job, or disagreed with.The mother was also adivised by professionals in the social work and legal fields to stop contact if she thought her child was not safe.
        I therefore suggest that you go very careful and seek legal advise, but even then way up the pro’s and con’s carefully

  48. My court order is dated two years ago, in which i have residency of my two children, but i must not move there school without the permission of there father. There school is the otherside of town and we have to leave at 6am everyday and its very costly and i get no help towards the cost from him. He has said i can change there schools, but then changes his mind. Its had a huge impact on there education as its just to far to travel. Can i do anything about this? He is suppose to have the children every other wkend, but always lets them down due to problems in his new relationships. I dont recieve a penny from him although he works.

    • Amanda, I can’t give legal advice on this blog and I don’t know whether or not there is an order specifically saying you must not move school, but you could do some internet research about how to vary (change) orders under s8 Children Act or about specific issue orders, which can cover things like schools. Before you go to court however you will be expected to give some thought to trying to resolve your dispute through mediation – if you are on low income you may qualify for this for free. The court wont deal with maintenance but the Child Maintenance Options site will give you information about maintenance.

  49. I’ve just spent an hour reading through the above and I have to say congratulations to Familoo for setting this up and endeavouring with it, despite interference from you know who..

    My own situation is that having a residence order in place from a few years ago but I have had a lot of broken contacts by my ex who says simply that my daughter “doesn’t want to see you”.

    My ex has invented child abuse claims, domestic abuse (against her), and psychological and physical abuse claims to try to blacken my character.

    I’m trying to give as much detail here without too much as I am going back to court to apply for full residence (I am the non resident father)

    I have taken some comfort from the above blog entries, and also some cause for realism in that even if I get the judgement I’m looking for, this is not going to be a simple case of moving on into a wonderful rose tinted world.

    I have been let down by the courts, police, social services – in fact every single “authority” in the land that I have looked to for help.

    I have however found the help of private mediators, solicitors and barristers to be useful in simply reinforcing my knowledge that I have done nothing wrong, and giving me the strength to carry on.

    So I would say in summary, yes the legal system is broken, but I do think it’s improving. To blame the solicitors and barristers for that is simply ridiculous. They are here to help us, but tied in to the same knots that we would be if we represented ourselves. They do know however where the dead ends are, and what the likely outcome of the path you are going down will be.

    After my court case I will return and give you feedback on the general status of what I’ve achieved or not achieved.

    Best wishes to all those who believe they are doing the right thing. To all those abusing a child or the system (and hence making this worse still), may you be re-paid one day.

  50. Its reassuring to hear that something can be done in terms of contact orders not being stuck to by resident parent. I am current;y just starting the process of mediation (I know it will not help) but have heard all the orders have changed now so been reading up this morning about them all and gathering as much information as i possibly can. All I want it to see my daughter alone (current;y she insists on coming out with us, so I spend 6 hours on a train every Saturday to have her ruin the day with my little girl constantly asking about my partner and our children and threats of her moving so I can’t see her if I ever ask to have her alone) I informed my ex that if she doesn’t let me see my daughter I will go to court, this was met with her stating a court order doesn’t mean she has to let daughter see me. I spent the next hour crying at the thought there may be nothing I can do but fight and fight and get no where for years. But thank you familoo, little bit of faith restored.

  51. Concerned parent

    (I did write out comment but hasn’t seemed to post, so sorry if it does 2 posts)
    I have not read through all the comments, but my situation is that [edited]

    • It hasn’t posted because I had not yet moderated it. However I have edited your comment because I don’t usually allow people to post details of their cases on this site.

  52. Concerned parent

    Oh ok thanks, I feel the courts are being too bias towards fathers rights. What about the children’s right ! The right to be safe, I’ve found judges are more interested in ensuring the fathers rights are met rather than ensuring the safety of the children, when a judge rules against several cafcass officers and psychologist

  53. Going through the courts on a family case, we are on our 3rd judge and there is a very distinct lack of continuity. Is there anything i can do except from asking the judge to recuse himself?

    A very concerned, frustrated father…

    • not sure why you would ask judge to recuse himself – that would mean more dis-continuity wouldn’t it? If you want continuity ask judge to reserve it to himself for case management.

  54. I’ve spent a good while reading through Pink Tape now having only found you today and I have to say I’m very impressed and I’m a legal writer!

    I like to stick to facts wherever possible but do feel for some of your commenters and the situation they find themselves in. It’s true that quite often fathers do not receive the fair treatment they deserve, especially here in the UK.

    Many thanks,
    Chester Schofield

  55. Hi Lucy,
    I wondered if you could make some general comments about what range of situations would constitute a “reasonable excuse” for a resident parent denying contact with a non-resident parent in accordance with a contact order.
    Many thanks,

    • Hi Charlie,
      Difficult to give an exhaustive list – and of course what is reasonable will be for the judge to determine based on the specifics of any case. I guess I would say that a reasonable excuse needs to be applicable to that particular day – if it is a general inability / refusal then an application to vary or discharge an order should be made. So, for example if a child is too ill to travel on a particular day, or the family car breaks down and there is no other means of getting the child to contact (and the other parent can’t pick them up), or if an older child is unable to be persuaded or cajoled to get in the car – those sorts of things might be reasonable excuses. The child crying a bit and expressing reluctance almost certainly not.

  56. elizabeth bella

    i am urgently need my ex back post comment

  57. May I gain insight from you all? I am a Mother with residency and stopped overnight access in Oct 2014. Reason was my Ex was drunk in charge of our children. I did not stop access, just overnight access. We have a court order now in place with contact strictly laid out. Today he has refused to come for the children (they are due to stay overnight again on the 26th of June and the judge has set out a phased return type of thing. Where do I stand and what can I do about this? He has breached the Order so many times now, plus i am having to cancel work at late notice because of it.

    • Theresa- can’t give advice on the blog I’m afraid but in general terms if an order is no longer appropriate because of a change of circumstances then there should be an application to vary it. And if a parent incurs costs as a result of a breach of a contact order they may make a compensation application under the children act.

  58. It scares me to think that there are so many children out there that are going through these terrible situations, just like mine. I have been going through the courts now for many years with my child and my ex, and 2 years ago I took it back to court as my daughter was becoming increasingly reluctant to go to contact and I wanted to ammend the contact order (not stop contact ) to make it easier for her.
    Since then things have spiralled out of control (all led by Dad) with the involvement of CAFCASS and court Psychologists. My daughter still refuses to see Dad and no matter what we put into place, emails, phone calls etc she just wont go. She tells them why and they don’t believe her. They believe it is all coming from me. Which it isn’t. She has told them this too. They are now talking about removing her from my care as Dad is wanting to go for full custody – she wont even get in the car with him but “in the long term she will benefit”. How can courts let this happen? They talk about putting the needs of the child first and sometimes it seems that they just remove a child from one bad situation, to put them into one that’s even worse – to suit who? The child? or the non resident parent?
    Children are supposed to have the right to speak for themselves, yet when they do, and do it with articulacy and confidence, they get accused of being “manipulated” because they are too young to be able to think like that. Some children have experienced things that not many adults can cope with on a daily basis, and when they have, they develop an understanding of the situation, and understanding based on what they have seen and experienced, they are completely in their own mind and right mind to make that decision for themselves.
    Yes we are there to guide them and help them to make the right decisions, but what was the point of having the Children’s Act if not to give them a voice and an element of input into their own decision making, particularly on something as important as who they want to live with?

    • Thanks Charlotte. What a child says will be given more or less weight depending on age and other circumstances (For example whether it is felt what they say is reliable given any pressure on them). There are currently moves towards hearing directly from more children, and from finding other ways for them to participate and be heard – I think you are right that we don’t always do well enough at this, but on the other hand there are circumstances where what a child says is only a small part of a bigger picture. I’m speaking pretty generally rather than about your case particularly.

  59. Hi,

    I recently did nearly 3 months in jail for repeat texting and when I was released from prison the social worker decided that I needed supervised visits at my mums house once a week, I took my daughter nearly 4 nights a week to allow my ex to work, I love having my daughter but I seem to be getting punished again allow it was my fault about being sent to prison, no one wants to know the under lying reasons why we had issue’s ie debt, she had affairs but it seems when mentioning this to the social worker she doesn’t seem at all interested in side of the story, I’m a loving father who has paid for my mistakes and I feel the system is still putting the boot in when they can.

    Please reply

    Mr k.

    • Mr K, I’ve edited your name as it was given in full. I’m not sure I fully understand your comment, but in any event I don’t think I would be able to comment on it through this blog. Probably though focusing on your ex’s affairs as opposed to your own behaviour is probably not going to be particularly helpful – demonstrating that you understand how your behaviour affected others and how it might change might be better.

  60. One of the lucky ones.

    Dear Lucy,

    Having read ‘The family court without a lawyer’, watched your online instructional videos, and now spent a little time on this site. I have to say that if I currently had a hat on I would now be taking it off in recognition of what you are trying to achieve – and have already achieved. Really fantastic work! It is, however, slightly unfortunate that I tend not to wear hats in bed whilst online reading internet sites at two in the morning. But then who said life was ever going to be fair.

    I’ve been engaged in a high-conflict child proceedings case for almost 2 years now. The case has all the hallmarks of personality disordered behaviour followed by false accusations and parental alienation. We’re at circuit judge level, CAFCASS has been all over it, there has been almost two dozen hearings, and the legal costs alone are easily in excess of six figures. I am the (genderless – as far as this post is concerned) non-resident parent who has been fighting, for what seems like forever, to have defined access to their young child. A child for which she and I have the most beautiful relationship, as and when we have the chance. An earlier post suggested that these things take over your life – oh, never has a truer word been spoken. These things go far beyond ‘responsibility’ – they are about ‘duty’.

    Sorry, okay I’m rambling a bit – to the point. I have above all else found it absolutely astonishing that someone can fabricate a whole barrage of lies and systematically feed them to the family court system with absolute and total impunity. In my humble opinion these individuals should be punished, and I do mean in a big way. Injustice, wasting public money, destroying lives, domestic abuse, child abuse, and ultimately in the extreme cases killing other people by proxy. The list goes on and on and on… “he said, she said” .. is that really the best that the British family justice system has to offer?

    My question, if you would be kind enough, is this: Do you think that the family court system would be more effective and efficient if they had a more transparent mechanism to be able to identify the liars before them, or do you think that they really don’t care?

    I’ve been representing myself for a while now – or should I say defending myself against the untruths of a smear campaign. Successfully, thankfully, but not without it taking its toll on my life and on that of those that are close to me. I have on occasion considered jumping upon the bench in court and shouting ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ whilst pointing aggressively at my opposition, but after careful consideration I figured that that wouldn’t help much either. Although just between you and I, I do have a slightly better strategy up my sleeve…

    Warmest regards,

    • I suppose it would be helpful to be able to have some watertight way of knowing when someone was lying. But this is probably as unattainable as the holy grail. People often believe what they are saying even when it is not true or accurate – either because their memory fails them, or they convince themselves what they are saying is true. It is rarely as straightforward as someone telling a barefaced lie, although sometimes they do. the bigger problem than catching people out lying is changing their attitudes and in finding ways to stop them repeatedly overreacting, making accusations or creating a hostile environment for children to grow up in. A finding that someone has lied or that their allegation is not proved (ie did not happen) is often not the end of the matter, although of course it is important.

  61. Concerned parent

    What is your view on forcing a 5yr old child to go into supervised contact when they are making the decision to not go in ? The parent is taking child as ordered by court but child gets distressed and says does not want to go into contact ?
    Thank you

    • Speaking as a parent I don’t think a 5 year old is old enough to be making that decision. My 5 year old is massively ornery and very strong willed when he doesn’t want to do something, so I understand the difficulty (I say this with the memory of the last birthday party I took him to fresh in my mind, he spent two hours sulking with his hands over his ears because he didn’t like the music) – but I wouldn’t let him tell me he didn’t want to see his dad (if we were separated). If contact is supervised the supervisor should call a halt if the child gets too distressed. Children often say they don’t want to do something and protest massively, but are fine within five minutes. They don’t like change and they pick up on adult anxiety.

      • What would say to a 5 year old that refuses to see their daddy, states he is “a nasty daddy” and that “he hurt them” and why don’t we believe them . What do you say to them when they ask why can’t I have a nice daddy” and harp on “can we get a new daddy, a nice one” regardless of how many times you tell them that they already have a daddy and he will always be their daddy

        Every time you try to approach the subject of visiting daddy and even make comments that he is missing them and he loves them etc, they say they don’t want to see them and they don’t wish to talk about and change the subject, or ignore you until you do? We have even asked what if daddy apologises to them etc, but to no avail and their daddy has denied hitting them, but admits to shouting in their face. How do you help them to prepare for visit as this is going to happen whether or not what the child wishes are?

  62. What needs to be established is the root cause of ‘why’ the child is not wanting to have contact with one of its parents. This behaviour is abnormal. Unfortunately it does appear to be all too common for the resident parent to say something on the lines of “There you go, I told you that little Johnny doesn’t want to see his dad”. The question is ‘why does he not?’. It is nothing short of child abuse for a parent to align with a child who adopts this position for no good reason. In these situations it is the responsibility of the resident parent to encourage contact and to ensure that any irrational feelings that the child might have are addressed, and quickly. If they are not addressed, there is a very high probability that the child will lose one of its parents. And one day that child will ask ‘why?’. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to explain to my 18 year old adult child that they only have one parent because at the age of 5 ‘they’ decided that they didn’t want to see their mother/father. It is highly likely that their response would be “Yeah, but I was only 5!” – followed by a devastating realisation that the loss of one of their parents could have been avoided.


    • I think it CAN be abnormal (eg caused as you say by a failure to encourage). Based on my experience of 5 year olds though it could also just be one of those things – they have off days and their little irrational lines in the sand. The point is you need to work through it and remain in charge when it’s something as important as a relationship with their other parent.

  63. No. It IS abnormal. Without external influence, or mitigating factors, a child will naturally gravitate toward its parents – both of them. It is this behaviour (amongst others) that ensures the survival of our species. We have learned it over millennia.

    You did hit the nail on the head though: “the point is you need to work through it and remain in charge when it’s something as important as a relationship with their other parent.”

    Unfortunately, as you and I both know, the majority of people who find themselves in this position are those who wish to destroy the relationship with the other parent. If everyone where to put the CHILD FIRST we wouldn’t be having this chit chat.

    Ho hum. Who ever said life was going to be perfect?

  64. I have something to say about this, and I apologize for the length this is going to be.

    Now, before there is any bashing and insults being thrown around I have a couple of cases for you to understand why sometimes, there has to be a severance in contact. To protect identities no names or the personal attachments will either not be named or will be changed.

    Case 1.

    Child is 5 years old. After a long battle through contact centres and other demoralizing and humiliating facilities, the “Resident Parent” decides that it’s not enough to stop “Non-Resident Parent” from drinking whilst around Child. Child Services and Courts decide it’s completely fine for Non-Resident Parent to have unsupervised contact. The NRP is an alcoholic and is medically deemed as so. Now, because the Court decided that the NRP needs contact with child, this child is now constantly in danger as it was known that NRP was drinking heavily whilst Child was under their care. The RP gets a new job and has to move a few hundred miles away. NRP puts in a residency movement order, meaning that the child has to stay with Grandparents for a year, or the RP will loose their job, just so that the Child still has dangerous contact with the NRP. Eventually after lots of Courts and legal battles, the Child is allowed to Resume Residence with the RP. By now, the constant having to travel back and forth for Court dates etc means the RP has lost their job. Relying on the Child Maintenance money to afford to take Child to see NRP. Which still did not cover the cost of such. Yet the one time they couldn’t make it down to give contact the NRP kicked up such a fuss about it (even though every month for the last 3 years they’d gotten their contact) that it’s made the RP seriously ill. All the while, the RP does have other children whom aren’t connected to the NRP. The child in question has fallen so behind with schooling due to the constant travelling every month, but the court FAILED to care about that, as long as the NRP got their contact. Where’s the justice in that? The “child’s best interests” weren’t taken into consideration at all, but simply the rights of the NRP. So please do not tell me that NRP’s are so badly done to. Their rights are now put ahead of the Child’s right to safety, security and a constant access to education.

    Case 2.

    Unborn Child Case. NRP is a convicted Sex Offender. Unknown until after the child was conceived. The RP moved away after finding out this, from a social worker and was told should the child have contact with NRP the child would be removed from RP’s care. Once child was born NRP was trying to contact RP to have contact access with Child. The courts were gotten involved as well as Child Services. Even though they had prior said that Child was not allowed contact, they still allowed the farce of a case to go through the courts. The NRP of course was not granted access, but it took a year for this to go through, all the while the NRP could get access to medical records and address and such likes. The Child was taken by the NRP by force one day. It then took a lot of court battles and such for the RP to attain the child back from social care. The child is 4 years old and severely traumatized. Because the justice system is completely messed up. The child has constant nightmares, and wets the bed every night for the fear of having to go through such an ordeal… there was so much that could have been prevented but that is going to impact the child for the rest of their lives. So sometimes the NRP is the NRP for a reason.


    I know there are cases where the RP unfairly and unrightly takes away the access from a NRP and I agree that’s wrong but no case is black and white and it’s about time the Courts started using the “childs best interest” instead of the rights of the NRP first.

    • Thanks Anon1234. I’m not sure if the cases you are describing are based in England & Wales, some of your language makes me think perhaps you are talking about the US? I don’t think I can meaningfully comment on your case studies without the full judgment.

  65. I have had a number of Contact Orders over the years (from 2010 to 2014). I applied for an Enforcement Order, but the Judge told me that he could not send Mother to jail or do Community Service because she had two children to look after. I had not seen my Daughter for 16 weeks. I was given another Contact Order. Contact is stopped now and again with poor reasons, the last one being that my Daughter wanted to see her Grandad. The week before, the reason was because my Daughter did not want me to pick her up. I rely on my partner every Sunday, what with her having a car and the fact that we live about 40 miles away from my Daughter. It would be a waste of time applying for another Enforcement Order, plus there’s the cost involved. I was claiming Legal Aid and my case cost just under £6,000 (in and out of Court for two and a half years). My Barrister and CAFCASS both baffled why my case had gone on for so long, in and out of Court for Contact Orders. Until Courts abide by the law with Enforcement Orders, non resident parents are doomed.

  66. I am on the opposite side of the arguments here. I know most of the time mothers are criticised for not given access to absent fathers. in my case I want him to have access but he is refusing to follow the order he requested. My Ex took me to Court when to have access to our child after his immigration case failed. He was given the order and got his right to stay in the UK now but has since refused to follow the order. Him and his Lawyers asked for contact every fortnight, few days during half term, a week at Easter and Christmas and two weeks during Summer holidays. To date five years on he only does the fortnights and blatantly refuses to do the rest of the days. Instead every time he comes to pick up his child downstairs he will be looking for a fight. he has intimidated everyone in our home including my son so no one wants to bring our child downstairs to him now, trying to avoid any confrontation. I still want him to have access but also want him to follow the order so that I can have some time to myself during the holidays and half term when I have to use up all my leave at work to care for our child. I have asked him several times to do extra days but it ends up in a fight. What do I do? can I take him back to Court?

    • Hello Elizabeth. Anybody with a child arrangements order may return to court to ask for it to be varied, but they must first follow the rules about attending a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). Google MIAM.

  67. bring legal aid back for fathers who can not afford to fight for there children my friend spent five thousand pounds on a credit card only to have to abandon his barrister as funds were not available
    solicitors did not want to know shame on our legal system
    final result was my friend had loads of proof against his ex but family judge of birkenhead and social services worked against my son and told his family that they would not see there father until they became of age a total discraze our new prime minister should re astablish legal aid and give dads the chance of a life with there kids ashamed to be british
    B wootton

  68. The family courts are completely biased in over 90% of contested cases the mother gets residency
    Your selection of cases is less than than a percentage for example the one of the cases was quoted where the husband had to go to court for YEARS there are 1000’s upon 1000’s of examples where men are treated with complete contempt by the family courts.

    I have been to family court over 50 times on my own case where I was called a pedophile a rapist a child abductor child abuser child neglect the mother was never punished for the lies so what discouragement was there for her as on each allegation contact was stopped whilst each of her claims were investigated.
    I even caught out my ex perjuring herself several times on the stand and nothing was done.
    To claim family courts are improving or getting better is a joke as I have also been to family court as a McKenzie helping others the bias always present.
    Until courts stare with a presumption of shared residence and are prepared to enforce their orders after a couple of breaches you will get better justice in a MacDonalds burger store.

    To the grammer police sorry for any typos or grammatical errors.

    • Thanks for your comment Colin, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I’m afraid I don’t agree with your characterisation of how cases are generally dealt with though. A high proportion of cases end with the mother getting or retaining care of a child in large part because she has been the child’s main carer to date or for a significant period. I also don’t agree that a presumption of shared residence would help anybody, least of all children – and if your approach as a McKenzie friend is to encourage your “clients” to push for this it may be counterproductive (I have had my fair share of clients who have asked me to argue for this, which if those are my instructions I do to the best of my ability – but my experience is that unless this is a good fit for the invidivual children and the family circumstances (it isn’t always), pressing hard for “equality” can make a father look rigid and focused on his own needs – even if his intentions are good. You sound very angry in your comment, and from what you say of your own experience I can understand why, but if you take that anger into your McKenzie friend work I would worry that this might not help you help them.

  69. Hi, I have a question. My ex wife has residency of our 5 year old son. …[edited]

    • Hi John,
      I am afraid I don’t give legal advice via this blog. I’ve edited your comment for privacy reasons.

      • Thank you Lucy. It seems most of my post is missing. Have you removed it?

        • Yes, as per my reply i have edited it.

          • I don’t understand. Others have their posts up, but you have removed, or edited as you say, mine…

          • I don’t give advice on the blog. I took the view it might not be a great idea to publish the detail of your concerns / queries, and it serves no purpose since I can’t answer them.

  70. Mother was deemed to be looking after her child perfectly well. Child was happy with mum & wanted to stay at home. Head teacher recommended child stay at home where he was happy. Court rips child from happy home. Have I understood this correctly? When were the child’s wishes & needs taken into account? Punish mother for being a good mother? & reward absent dad by sending child into emotional turmoil. It is a tragedy that this court placed dad’s demands over & above the child’s needs & wishes. A good example of how courts do not put the child’s needs as paramount but rather dad’s demands.

  71. Arek Zoltowski

    I filed a complaint to UN Human Rights Committee and I won. However , Australian Government disapprove their bad luck and reject to publish it. Also they reject to implement UN Committee’s ruling. http://ccprcentre.org/decision/16610

  72. I think it’s a disgrace that domestic violent men are able to use the system to
    Exploit vulnerable people to the point they take their children away. I’ve been reading a lot on this topic andy concern is there is the child is in the middle of all this. Courts need to re look at the system as a bullying tactic to further harass their victims. No protection here at all.

  73. I have just come to this site and read with interest the cases described above. Two of these, Child C and Child A, horrified me.
    Re Child C: To take a settled and happy eight year-old child from her mother, who is acknowledged as an excellent parent, is actually barbaric. Claims that the mother had a PD, made by the social worker and psychologist (presumably not clinical psychologist) do not constitute a diagnosis and are not grounds for removing a child from her care. Taking this child out of her home and away from her mother seems to have been a political and pragmatic decision, implemented in order to overcome the mother’s resistance to contact, rather than to do what is best for the child’s emotional and mental health.

    Re Child A: It is upsetting to read that a six year-old child was taken out of her mother’s care coincidental to the mother having another baby. Again, this was for political reasons, to address perceptions that courts aren’t punitive enough against reluctant mothers. This father had not even been parenting the child until then. From the child’s perspective, she had been replaced in her mother’s home and care by a new child. Purely devastating for her.

    I speak as someone very qualified and experienced in working with children in similar situations and am left disturbed by the described cases above. Children’s needs are certainly not being put first, because their requirement for security, stability and consistent care are massively underestimated. Instead, the ‘rights’ of fathers are often elevated in order to address social and political perceptions of ‘fairness’ and entitlement.

    Actions which are proudly ‘shouted from the rooftops’ now, may well be ones that in future years bring regret and realisation of great harm done.

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