There has been a great deal of publicity in the media about the measures which need to be taken in cases where one parent prevents another parent from having a relationship with their children.
The Court already has the power to do this and has had for some time but the current provisions of the Children Act are underused by many practitioners.
The law is very clear:
- Where it is in the best interest of a child to spend time with the other parent, then part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be;
- Where there are significant difficulties in the way of establishing safe and beneficial contact, the responsibility falls on both parents to address those difficulties;
- All parents have a responsibility to do their best to meet their child’s needs in relation to the provision of contact. It is not acceptable for a parent to shirk that responsibility and simply say “no” to reasonable strategies designed to improve the situation in this regard.
McFarlane J in the case of A (A Child)  EWCA Civ 910 when he restated the guidance in Re W (Direct Contact)  EWCA Civ 999
Children Act 1989: (2A) A court, [……….] is [………] to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of that parent in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.
In the last 7 days I have been involved in 2 cases where one parent has prevented the other from spending time with their child/children. In each case the Court has found the children have suffered or are at risk of suffering significant emotional harm attributable to the care given by the parent the children live with. The emotional harm arises because the child is not spending time or having contact with the other parent.
Once the Court decides that a child may be at risk of suffering harm then it is able to direct the local authority to prepare a report (s37). As soon as the Court makes a direction for a report under s37 it may make an interim care order which gives the Local Authority Parental Responsibility for the child and ultimately the power to remove the child if the harm continues.
An Interim Care Order does not necessarily mean the child will end up in foster care but the threat of such a drastic outcome may just bring the parent with care to the stark realisation of the damage they are causing to their own child. The Interim Order will also impose an obligation on the Local Authority to intervene to make a change for the children.
Greens Solicitors have specialist departments in Private Law and Public Law Children matters. This gives us the edge in Private Law Children Cases which are ‘stuck’ – we use the full armoury which exists in the current law to best effect for our clients.