24th February 2017

When parents separate it is often difficult to process the reality that even though they will not be a couple, they will still be parents.

A separation can be a traumatic experience for a child at the time but it does not need to cause permanent damage. It would only cause damage where there is conflict involving the children. They may feel that they are the reason for the separation.

A recent case AH v CH [2016] involving a father’s minute seeking unsupervised direct contact. The mother believed that the father was going to abduct the child. The child was made aware of his mother’s fears and did not want direct contact with his father. Lord Brailsford considered that it would be in the best interests of the child for orders to be made to re-establish unsupervised direct contact.

In this case, the mother held a genuine fear that the child was going to be abducted. She did not trust the child’s father and, despite the steps the court could take to alleviate her fears, she remained unconvinced. Against the background of deceit by the father, the mother’s fear of abduction was genuinely held.

Another case J v M [2016] involved high levels of conflict between the parties and their respective families following allegations of sexual abuse towards the child. The mother believed the father had sexually abused the child. The father accused the mother and her family of coaching the child to make false disclosures. This resulted in the sheriff’s refusal to order contact.

In comparison to the former case, the mother’s belief the father had sexually abused the child, despite the father never being charged with an offence nor any reference being made to a children’s hearing, was supported by a finding in fact that there were “reasonable grounds to suspect… some aspect of sexual abuse”, and that the allegation of abuse therefore “provided a sound basis for a prediction of deep ongoing hostility”

You will note that both cases involved conflict between the parties, however both cases reached different decisions. In terms of the decision making process in determining contact, the court must weigh up the facts of the case.

The overarching principle is the welfare of the child is paramount.

For many years Munro & Noble have advised clients in matters of child and family law and have a strong team in place to support you. Mary Nimmo is regularly appointed by the Sheriff as Court Reporter to make recommendations to the Courts regarding child related matters.

In addition, she is regularly appointed as Curator ad Litem to protect and safeguard a child’s interests by the court and the Children’s Hearing. For more information, please contact our Child Law Team on 01463 221727.

Child conflict and speration, Munro Noble discuss.