Parental alienation, children in care and judicial conduct: The last week in family law

A father has had to withdraw an application for contact with
his children, after their mother alienated them against him. The court had
tried to transfer residence of the children to the father, but the alienation
had already become entrenched, and the children ran away. Giving judgment in
the case His Honour Judge Wildblood QC said: “It is beyond doubt that, in the
long-term, what has occurred within this family will cause these children
significant and long-term emotional harm, even if they cannot understand that
now. I have said it and so have all the experts in this case. I am afraid that
the cause of that harm lies squarely with this mother; whatever may be her difficulties,
she is an adult and a parent with parental responsibility for her children.
That parental responsibility, which she shares with the father, requires her to
act in the best interests of her children. It also required her to promote the
relationship between these children and their father. She has failed to do so.
She had adult choices to make; the choices that she made were bad ones and
deeply harmful to the children.” He concluded his judgment by saying this to
the father: “This has been a long, heart-breaking and expensive set of events
for you to endure. I am truly sorry that this is the outcome and I do hope that
you will find some happiness in the future despite all that has occurred.”

The Commission on Justice in Wales has reported that there has
been an unsustainably high increase in the number of children being taken into
care in Wales, with significant variations between local authorities. The
Commission says that funds would be much better spent on support for children
and their families to prevent problems arising. The Commission welcomed a
recent initiative by the Welsh Government’s to hold local authorities to
account for reducing the number of children in care, those placed out of county
and those removed from parents with a learning disability. However, it said,
significant further action to tackle this issue is essential in both the short
and longer term. The Commission made a number of recommendations, including
that the law relating to children and family justice in Wales should be brought
together in one coherent legal system aligned with functions in relation to
health, education and welfare, and that Family Drug and Alcohol Courts should
be established in Wales.

A couple have been criticised by a judge for spending over
half a million pounds on court proceedings. Handing down a judgment in the
Court of Appeal Lady Justice King said: “This is yet another case where a
highly educated couple with young children has engaged in lengthy, destructive
and disproportionate legal proceedings. These disputes have continued for over
five years with emotionally bruising and expensive litigation in relation to
both money and the children of the marriage. The present appeal is a second
appeal in the financial remedy proceedings. The costs to date are in excess of
£500,000. The only substantial asset in the case, a flat in Panama, has a net
value of only £298,377. As a consequence, as the District Judge said in his
first instance judgment: “There is no way that the parties’ comfortable
lifestyle can be maintained. Much of this has been caused by the intolerable
burden of costs”.”

And finally, the Family Court has allowed an appeal against
a district judge’s ruling in a child care case, after finding that the district
judge’s conduct had ‘crossed the line’, creating a tense and confrontational
environment, and alienating those appearing before her. In the grounds for
appeal it was said that the district judge’s improper conduct was exemplified
by “blasphemous words, shouting, storming out of Court and general intemperate
behaviour”. Reference was also made to her use of sarcasm, shaking with rage, and
turning her chair away from the Court and sitting with her back to everyone for
several seconds. Handing down judgment in the appeal, His Honour Judge Mark Rogers
said that he was satisfied that these matters were all well-founded.