Weekly Family Law Update October 11, 2023

Father has his contact application refused after being abusive to all involved

In civil (i.e. non-family) court proceedings it is not unusual for the court to summarily dismiss a claim without a full hearing, usually because it is clear that the claim has no merit.

But in family court proceedings regarding children it is quite different.

The Family Court will not normally make a decision concerning arrangements for a child without first giving detailed consideration to the welfare of the child. It is extremely unusual for a court to refuse to hear an application by a parent without a full hearing.

But in a recent case that is exactly what happened. The case is a clear example of how not to conduct a children application.

Father’s behaviour

The case concerned a father’s application for a child arrangements order allowing him to have contact with his one year-old son.

Unfortunately, the father chose to be extremely abusive to everyone else involved in the case. This included the mother, the mother’s lawyers, the Cafcass officer, social workers, the judge’s clerk, and even the judge herself.

In addition he published abusive and untrue posts about the mother’s solicitors on social media, and failed to file the evidence that he had been ordered to file by the court.

In the circumstances, the mother asked for the father’s application to be dismissed.

The court agreed, finding three main reasons to dismiss the application.

Firstly, the application was very unlikely to be successful in the light of the father’s behaviour (which would put the child at risk), and it appeared that he was using the proceedings to further abuse the mother and her family (the mother had already obtained a non-molestation order against him).

Secondly, the father had failed to file any of the evidence which the court had ordered him to file.

Thirdly, the court was of the view that it was not possible or reasonable for the case to continue in the light of the father’s behaviour to all involved in the case, it being unreasonable for court staff and professionals trying to assist him, the child and the mother, to be subjected to the type and level of abuse emanating from him.

The court therefore dismissed the father’s application, without it going to a full hearing.

The court also made an order barring the father from making any further application in relation to the child for a period of one year, without first obtaining the permission of the court.

Extended Civil Restraint Order

But it did not end there.

After his application was dismissed the father proceeded to make four further applications to the court in quick succession.

On the very next day he issued an application to vary or discharge the non-molestation order that had been made against him, and this was followed by applications for a non-molestation order against the mother, for the judge to recuse himself (i.e. take no further part in the case), and to have the case transferred to another court.

The judge considered that the father issued these applications for the purpose of harassing the mother and taking up the time of the court. The applications were totally without merit, and had to stop.

The court therefore made an extended civil restraint order against the father, for two years.

The order would restrain the father until June 2025 from making applications in the Family Court or in the County Court concerning any matter involving or relating to or touching upon the children or injunction proceedings, without first obtaining the permission of the court. Any such application made without permission would be automatically struck out.

In addition, the court ordered the father to pay the mother’s legal aid costs, taking the view that the State should not have to pay the costs that the father had caused to the public purse resulting from his baseless applications, abusive behaviour, and unreasonable conduct.