Case note: C v P & Ors  EWFC 23
The mother ('M') raised allegations that the paternal grandmother ('GM') and father ('F') had physically abused and bullied the two children. F was Swedish and was living in Sweden. She sought to have the contact arrangements overturned. He cross-applied for a child arrangements order that the children live with him in Sweden. F and GM denied all the allegations made against them.
Finding that M had continuously repeated unsubstantiated allegations throughout the proceedings (including in front of the children) to the extent that the children now 'believed' these events had happened, that they knew blaming F is what M wanted to hear, and that a minor injury sustained by one child during play had deliberately been used to build a case against F, the judge concluded that M had shown 'a complete lack of sympathy, little or no empathy and offered her children no support in respect of their emotional needs' which included a need to love F, to enjoy his company and to spend a happy time in Sweden with their Swedish family.
Going on to find that M saw what she wanted to see, was deliberately disingenuous and had deliberately sought to malign F, the judge fairly swiftly concluded that M had never wanted contact to take place and had done her utmost to stop or undermine the time the children spent with F. By manipulating her children, she had achieved that aim. In the process, the children had suffered significant psychological and emotional harm the result of which was they are unable to contemplate the Swedish half of their own identity and exhibited such distress when asked about Sweden or F that the professionals who had spoken to them had recommended to the court that the children would need expert help in order to rebuild their relationship with F and their extended family.
Whilst the judge was clearly minded to switch the children’s living arrangements from M to F, doing so she acknowledged would at this stage cause yet further damage. Contact was directed to resume as soon as arrangements could be put in place for the children to receive independent professional support.
However, the status quo could neither remain. The local authority had been instructed to prepare a s.37 report with a view as to whether the children should be removed from M and placed into foster care in order to build up their relationship with F with a view to an eventual relocation. F was better placed than M to provide for their needs and ensure their long-term welfare.