October 16, 2023
The case of A (A Child: Care – Appeal)  EWFC 84 took place on 12th May 2023. This was an appeal of a decision made by District Judge Jenkins on 9th February 2023.
The proceedings involved a 5-year-old boy (A). The Mother and Father also have two adult sons. There was Local Authority involvement with the family on and off from 2005.
On 16th May 2021, the Father headbutted the Mother whilst A and his older brother were at home. The Mother and Father separated after this incident. Two days later, the Mother had a brain aneurysm. A causal link between this and the headbutt could not be established as there was history of this in the Mother’s family.
A and his older brother stayed with the Father whilst the Mother was recovering. They returned to their Mother on 16th June 2021. The Local Authority then issued care proceedings on 24th June 2021.
The Mother alleged significant domestic abuse and violence from the Father throughout the relationship. Both parents underwent parenting assessments which concluded that neither of them had capacity to meet A’s needs.
In early 2022, A started to have overnight stays with his Father, building up the contact to every other weekend and a week in the school holidays.
The Final Hearing in the care proceedings took place between 6th and 9th February 2023. This had been delayed due to the Mother’s brain surgeries and recovery. The Local Authority sought care and placement orders. The parents each opposed this and said that A should live with them respectively. The Guardian supported a placement with the Father.
The Judge concluded that A was not safe to stay in the Mother’s care as the Mother’s ability to meet his needs was severely compromised by her own mental ill health. She had experienced depression and self-harm and made threats to take her life. She was not consistently engaging in support. The Judge stated that a placement with the Father had not been properly tested and there was a significant gap in the evidence. The Judge described issues with adoption due to the child’s age.
The Final Order made was a Child Arrangements Order for A to live with his Father and spend time with his Mother. A Supervision Order was also made to the Local Authority. The Local Authority appealed the decision on 18th April 2023 and a stay of execution of the Order was granted. A moved back to live with this Mother having been with his Father for only six days.
The Local Authority’s grounds of appeal were that the Judge had failed to sufficiently take account of the findings of domestic abuse, the Judge had attached a disproportionate weight to the recommendations of the Guardian, the Judge failed to apply the evidence and findings regarding the Father’s parenting deficits and the Judge erred by failing to identify and analyse long-term foster care as a realistic option.
The appeal was dismissed on all grounds by Her Honour Judge Vincent and the stay was lifted. A returned to live with his Father.
If you need help with a case such as this, please contact Mavis on 020 885 7986 for an appointment with a member of the family team.
If you have a family case where you require some advice or representation, please contact Mavis for an appointment with a family solicitor on 020 8885 7986.