Hannah Field in the family team successfully represented the father of a child, who was born to unmarried parents, to have regular contact with his daughter.
The mother had taken the parties’ child from St Lucia without the father’s consent. The mother had dual UK and St Lucian nationality and the father St Lucian. As the parents were not married the father did not have parental responsibility in St Lucia and therefore was not able to apply for the return of the child. It was consequently agreed that the child would remain living in the UK.
A generous amount of contact was agreed at the initial hearings; two taking place in the UK and two in St Lucia. The mother’s father, a significantly wealthy individual, agreed to fund the costs (including flights and the father’s accommodation in the UK) for three of the four contact sessions. The mother subsequently sought to vary the order for a variety of reasons, one being because her father was not prepared to pay due to the child’s father not being fully engaged and being rude and aggressive to the maternal family.
Application for change
Mr Justice Moor hearing the application in the High Court dealt with the matter robustly and dismissed the mother’s application. The mother sought permission to appeal which was refused to which she later made an application to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice MacFarlane and Lord Justice Moylan dismissed the mother’s appeal for varying the order. Concluding that the trial judge was entitled to deal with the matter as he did and whilst it was a robust decision he had a broad discretion and had not gone beyond that.
This reaffirmed the broad discretion judges have in determining such matters. Reference was made to the fact that whilst relationships do become strained when they have broken down, parties have to work together and look to the wider family to assist in ensuring that a child’s relationship and ultimately therefore their welfare is promoted.