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Giving children a voice in family courts

We always imagine that once a case has gone to court that, like it or not, there will ultimately be a decision which must be upheld.

In fact, that’s not always true, proven by this long-running case in which there have now been four judgments but still no resolution.

The case concerns contact between two girls and their biological father and his same sex partner (the fathers). The girls live with their biological mother and her same sex partner (the mothers).

Litigation began in the High Court in 2008 when the girls, referred to as A and B, were aged seven and three years old. It has continued almost uninterrupted since, during which time there has been no routine contact between the girls and their fathers.

Until Mr Justice Cobb first heard the case in March 2014, there had been almost no judicial continuity. Different strategies had been attempted and multiple experts instructed in an attempt to unblock the impasse between the parties.

In his first judgment, the judge expressed cautious optimism about a relationship with the fathers that would be in the girls’ best interests. However, the direct contact he ordered between B and her fathers, has not taken place and A has not had direct contact with the fathers for 3 years.

Now aged 14, A continues to oppose any contact with the fathers. Sarah Cove has been acting for her to ensure that her wishes are heard.

The latest judgment considers how to balance A’s views with the need to re-inforce the Court’s view that a limited form of relationship with her fathers is in her best interests.

Mr J Cobb said “I am bound to reflect that this is not a forensic success story; the Family Court has not been able to achieve what I, and my predecessor judges, have considered to be best for these girls.”

He quoted a fellow judge who recently acknowledged that “Sometimes, family cases present problems that regrettably the courts cannot solve despite all their endeavours … The fact that the courts cannot solve the problems presented by a case such as this one does not mean that they are insoluble. The solution so often lies in the hands of the parents”

Mr J Cobb concluded “This is one such case.”

For the adults involved, this can be frustrating and upsetting. For the children, it can be devastating. Which is why Sarah is committed to ensuring that children and young people have their voice heard.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this article and would like specialist support, please email Sarah Cove or contact us and ask to speak to her.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.