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Kerri was recently able to assist a client to successfully defend an appeal in Children Act proceedings in relation to the decision of the family court.

Circumstances of the case

In short, the circumstances of the case were as follows:-

Following separation the client’s son, who was 3 months old, lived with the client and spent time with his father.  The parties attended mediation and it was agreed that the child would spend time with the father for 3 nights a week.

In January 2021 the father made unsubstantiated allegations against the client and refused to return the child to the client’s care.  The client made an immediate application to the court and safeguarding checks by CAFCASS resulted in concerns over the confusion the child was likely to be experiencing through having no contact with his mother.  CAFCASS also queried the father’s motivation for retaining the child and concluded that there were no concerns in respect of the client’s care of the child.  Despite this the father continued to refuse any sensible proposals for interim contact between the mother and the child and it was only when the court ordered interim contact some 5 months later that the client was able to have regular weekly contact with the child.

At the final hearing the court heard submissions from the parties and made a final order for the child to live with the client and spend time with the father on alternate weekends from Saturday to Sunday and on alternate Wednesday to Thursday.

The father issued an appeal against the decision of the family court on the following grounds:-

  • The Court’s decision to conduct a Final Hearing which had been listed with a time estimate of 3 hours when they did not have sufficient time to do so;
  • The Court’s decision to significantly limit the parties evidence to 10 minutes of submissions in order to finalise the matter;
  • The decision of the Magistrates;
  • The Justices Facts and Reasons, stating the client was the child’s primary carer until the father removed the child from her care, which the father asserted is an error in fact.

The appeal hearing took place before a senior Judge who indicated that the father’s appeal was “wholly unmeritorious” and the appeal was dismissed in its entirety.  The Judge also made a full costs order for the father to pay the costs of the client’s costs in relation to the appeal.

The right decision was made by the appeal court but this case demonstrates the need to carefully consider the merits of the case before appealing a decision of the court as, if unsuccessful, the costs risks are substantial.

If you would like further advice in connection with the matters raised in this article then please contact Severine Vincent or Kerri Gregory in our family department on 01926 422 101.

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