I am a family divorce lawyer and mediator at Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors.
There has been a recent case of a 6 year old girl who had been the focus of court cases for 5 of her 6 years. Her relationship with both her parents was positive, warm and loving. The issue that the Court had to consider was how, and when, she should see her father. The Judge concluded that the mother had such an unreasonable and strong hostility to the daughter spending time with her father that this relationship could not progress. Therefore the Judge decided that the child should move to live with the father, and spend time with her mother.
This is not the first time that contact disputes have resulted in a child’s main home being moved from one parent to the other. It is not something that happens quickly and it is not common, but it does happen.
How does this affect parents who cannot agree the arrangements for their children? My advice is that if you have real difficulties and worries about a child spending time with the other parent, take them seriously early on and seek advice right from the start. It is important that serious and reasonable misgivings about contact are not dismissed as just a reaction to the break-up. You might be trying to protect your child from the other parent who resolutely cannot recognise they need to change, who perhaps needs to undertake anger management classes or domestic violence awareness courses before their time with the child is positive.
For a parent struggling to establish a quality relationship with their child after separation, it can be a shock to hear their newly empowered ex-partner expressing serous concerns about the way they behave around the child. However, if a parent cannot show they offer a safe and positive relationship with the child, and will protect the child, then eventually a court will form the view that direct contact is not suitable.
What if one parent is deliberately preventing a child’s relationship with the other parent, for reasons unrelated to the child’s needs? If this is happening to you, it is imperative to act carefully to defend your positon and prevent your child being drawn into the dispute by the other parent. Conflicts about contact need to be handled robustly but very sensitively and calmly too, particularly if other issues such as mental health problems, or addictions or difficult personality problems are also present.
The message of these cases is that if you think you are headed for a conflict concerning a child, get some advice early on to help direct how you manage it. With the benefit of this, you can decide how to negotiate in order to try to reach a workable future arrangement that is best for your child, and also ensure a dispute does not escalate to a court case.
If you have any questions or queries about this article or any of my other articles all of which are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk., please feel free to email me on [email protected]. If there are any particular issues that any readers would like to ask please feel free to email me.
Specialist Family Lawyer and Mediator
 Re C(a child) 2018