Parental Contact

Children – Indirect Contact

The case of Re A (A Child) considered whether a Father should have direct or indirect contact with his daughter.

In this case, the Mother was aged 50 and the Father aged 62.

The parties formed a relationship in 1991.

The Mother had a breakdown in 1996 for which she received treatment.

The parties had a child, M, who was born in 1999.

The parties separated in 2001.

Prior to the breakdown of the relationship, the Father’s relationship with M was difficult.

Following separation M mainly lived with her Mother, however had lived with her Father from February to November 2007 as the Mother had mental problems and was therefore unable to care for her.

There were periods of time where M had lived with the maternal grandparents due to the Mother’s health.

Apart from the time M was living with the Father, the contact between them was very intermittent, with significant periods of time of very limited or no contact.

The Father’s last direct contact with M was in February 2012. Since this time there had been very little indirect contact.

The Mother had been diagnosed as having emotionally unstable personality disorder, with paranoid personality traits.

The litigation around M had begun in 2001 and had continued ever since.

The Father only had contact with M as a result of bringing applications before the Court and referring the matter back to Court, where the Mother either refused to move contact on, or produce M for contact.

In October 2012, an Order was made limiting contact with the Father and M to indirect contact.

The Father appealed.

The Court of appeal decided that the family life rights of M and her Father to have a relationship with one another had been violated.

The matter was listed for a re-hearing.

The Father sought direct contact at a level which would enable him to build a relationship with M again.

The expert evidence confirmed that there was no real prospect of direct contact being established under a Court Order.

The Mother stated that the proceedings should be bought to an end, with an Order for indirect contact only.

The Mother confirmed that if an Order was made for direct contact, it would not work because M would refuse to attend.

The Father argued that the only impediment to contact was the Mother’s hostility towards him and that M’s wishes and feelings could not be relied upon.

The Father did not accept that M would not attend contact if an Order was made. Although, the Father did accept that M would only attend if the Court was prepared to use its enforcement powers to make that happen.

The Father stated that indirect contact would not work.

The Court ruled that it is in a child’s best interests to have a good relationship with both parents and a parent should be involved in a child’s life.

However, the Court stated that this did not mean contact should be ordered in every case, given the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.

The Court stated that an Order for no direct contact was an extreme order, which engaged the right to family life under Art 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Therefore, any decision had to comply with the obligation on the Court.

The Court considered that an Order should be confined to indirect contact.

The Court stated that the expert evidence was clear and unanimous that there was no prospect of direct contact.

The only order which would be consisted with M’s welfare would be indirect contact. It stated that it would not be in M’s best interests to make an Order for direct contact, given it would be detrimental to her welfare.

The Court clearly established that an Order for indirect contact was necessary and proportionate, given it would be detrimental to M’s welfare if direct contact was ordered.

If you need assistance in respect of your matrimonial affairs, whether this is in respect of issues concerning a divorce and the related financial aspects, children, injunctions or cohabitation disputes, please contact our offices on 01323 727321 to arrange an appointment.

Please note that the family department offer a free initial 30 minute interview to provide general advice and guidance in relation to your matter.

Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate, Meads

Guy Brown
Guy Brown
Carolyn Richards
Carolyn Richards
Greg Saunders
Greg Saunders
Tina Ripley
Tina Ripley