A Judge in the West Country has taken the unusual step of asking for help from the Press to trace a Somerset mother, who has gone on the run with her three year old son after the Court ordered that the child should live with his father.
Ordinarily, strict rules apply which prevent children who are the subject of Court proceedings being identified but in this instance Judge Stephen Wildblood QC asked the Press to help saying, “Any assistance by the press in finding out where (the child) is will be gratefully received”.
Sadly, the parents’ relationship broke down when the boy was just one and the father made an application for contact to the Court shortly thereafter. Although the mother made serious allegations about the father, these were rejected by the Court, the Judge finding they had been “fabricated to frustrate contact”. Ultimately, in May of this year a Judge ruled that the little boy should live with his father, having decided that the mother had made false allegations and obstructed contact between father and son, the child having been found to have a “warm relationship” with both parents.
Now maternal grandmother, aunt and uncle have found themselves having to answer questions from Judge Wildblood as to the whereabouts of the boy and his mother and ultimately, could face imprisonment if they are found to have lied to the Court. As the Judge himself said, “the stakes are now exceptionally high”.
Although parents whose relationships break down do not usually find themselves in this scenario, this stands as a cautionary tale that parents remain just that, parents, even if they are no longer in a relationship. Although the Courts actively encourage parents to reach agreement about the arrangements for their children, if an agreement cannot be reached the Court will intervene and will make what are now called Child Arrangement Orders. Such Orders can determine with whom a child has his or her main home, and when they see the parent with whom they are not living. Woe betide a parent who does not co-operate with the Court, or fails to comply with Orders made in relation to their children. Gone are the days when the Courts seemed unwilling or unable to enforce such Orders.
There is ample evidence to show that children thrive when they are able to have a positive and enduring relationship with both of their natural parents and so, unless there are good reasons why a child cannot see both of his or her parents, sanctions will follow for any parent who fails to co-operate with the Courts.
If you are in any doubt about your rights or obligations so far as your children are concerned following relationship breakdown, please contact a member of our Family team who would be happy to assist.