In a recent case Lord Justice MacFarlane has set out the approach to be taken by courts in cases when parents, usually mothers, are totally opposed to child contact taking place. The description given to such parents is ‘implacably hostile’. The approach taken by the courts is as follows:
- Where it is in the best interests of a child to spend time with the other parent, then part of the responsibility of the parent with care must be the duty and responsibility to deliver what the child needs, hard though that may be;
- Where there are significant difficulties in the way of establishing safe and beneficial child contact, the responsibility falls on both parents to address those difficulties;
- All parents have a responsibility to do their best to meet their child’s needs in relation to the provision of child contact. It is not acceptable for a parent to shirk that responsibility and simply say ‘no’ to reasonable strategies which are designed to improve the situation.
In what was described by the Court of Appeal as being a ‘tragic outcome’ the court agreed that there should be no order for direct contact with the father. This case was unusual as a 12 year boy was consistently saying ‘no’ to seeing his father and the mother was said to be emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. Seven years had also passed since contact had last taken place. It was therefore felt that the judge was entitled to find that a reinstatement of contact would not work for the boy.
Despite the outcome of this case judges are still very much of the view that child contact should be permitted wherever possible. It is an extremely unusual case for there to be no contact between a father and child.