Family and Children Law
In the case of Re G (children) (residence and contact)  The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a residence order with no order for contact.
The case concerned a same sex couple who had two children following artificial insemination. The first respondent, G, gave birth to both children. When the parents separated the appellant, W, began proceedings seeking shared residence and contact. G was granted sole residence with orders in place to ensure W remained central to the children’s lives. G did not want W to be involved with the children as she did not recognise her as a parental figure.
In 2008 G sought to end contact between W and the children. W issued an application for residence and contact. A children’s guardian, M, was appointed. M’s report concluded that the children did not view W as part of the family. A doctor was also appointed. The doctor recommended that contact should resume.
In October 2010 an order was made for contact with a review listed for a year later for a report from Dr A and a report from the new guardian B. In November contact broke down. W tried to refer the breakdown to the Dr A and to B but B could not be contacted. In January 2012 a directions hearing took place. B met with the children and recorded their opposition to resuming contact with W. B’s report was produced three days before the trial. In April 2012 the hearing took place. W represented herself at court. The judge accepted all the recommendations of B and relied heavily upon the views of the children. The judge accepted that there should be no order for contact and therefore awarded residence to W.
W appealed arguing that the judge had made an error replacing the shared residence order with sole residence to G as it deprived her of parental responsibility. The children had been living in both homes and the judge was wrong not to pursue direct contact further.
The appeal was allowed.
The variation of the shared residence order had been procedurally unfair. The judge’s decision to terminate the litigation without an enforceable contact order had been premature. Whilst the children’s wishes were an important factor there was a danger of taking them too literally. G’s intention was to estrange the children from W and the damage this would cause to the children had not sufficiently been factored in.
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