Family and Children
In the case of Re B (a child) (residence: premature order) , a grandmother’s appeal against a residence order made in favour of the child’s mother was allowed.
The case involved a two year old child referred to as ‘A’. A had lived with her grandmother and mother since birth. After her mother moved out A continued to reside with her grandmother.
The grandmother applied for a residence order in respect of A. A hearing was arranged to address any immediate contact arrangements with the presence of a social worker also required. The mother then also applied for a residence order for her child.
The grandmother stated that the mother, aged 19, had left the family home and intended to take her daughter with her. She had objected, involving the police and social services, as she believed the mother had left to live with a man recently released from prison and who had only single room accommodation.
The mother argued that the grandmother’s home had raised concerns with the police and that she had left A under the supervision of another child with learning difficulties.
The judge conducted the hearing by way of judicial questions with the answers being provided by counsel. The social worker asserted that the mother’s boyfriend was a drug user and an undesirable person to have around a two year old child. The mother denied having a relationship with him despite the grandmother’s assertions. The mother did not disclose where she was living but stated that she had applied for supported housing for herself and the child. The social worker’s recommendation, which he had conveyed outside court, was that there should be a 12 week assessment with A remaining with the mother.
At an early stage in the hearing the judge made it clear that A should be placed with the mother immediately when supported, unshared accommodation became available. The judge made a residence order despite the grandmother’s objections and with counsel asserting that the grandmother did not consent to the order.
The grandmother appealed arguing that the order had been made prematurely without proper evidence or argument and the decision had been made at what was scheduled as a short interim contact hearing.
The appeal was allowed. The decision had been made on no real evidence and the suggestion of a 12 week assessment had been disregarded with no real debate. The order had also been made at a hearing that was meant as a short interim hearing. Although the judge had mistakenly thought she was acting in the best interests of A it had not been a fair process. The hearing had not been listed as a residence order hearing so the appropriate evidence had not been submitted by the parties. The judge had therefore moved too fast in making her decision. The residence order was set aside. An interim contact order was made until the next hearing date.
If you would like advice regarding children and contact matters please contact our Family Law Department for a no obligation free initial appointment on Eastbourne 01323 727321 or Hailsham 01323 841481.