There is no doubt that the law in this area can be improved, and I give several suggestions here, and some possible reforms here. However, the law as it stands is perfectly adequate – if only it were enforced properly by the judges.
As far as the existing law is concerned, looking at these decided cases will help you get a picture of how the courts deal with high-conflict cases, where one parent denies or frustrates contact and turns the child against the (usually absent) parent. This happens all the time, and the courts are practically useless at fixing the problem. If you consider the decided cases in conjunction with the Children Act 1989 (‘The Act’), you will be more educated on the subject than most family lawyers – you are already more enlightened.
Briefly, what the law says is this:
- Children must have meaningful contact with both parents;
- ‘Indirect’ contact is not ‘meaningful’ (as one judge put it, “You can’t hug Skype”);
- Any short-term difficulties for the child over contact are outweighed by the long-term implications of losing a relationship with one of its parents;
- Whatever other considerations apply, the child’s best interests are paramount (and that means long-term best interests)
- Courts have many, many powers to deal with APs.
Sounds simple, no? Yet what we see every day in our family courts is APs routinely making false allegations against TPs – allegations which are usually not investigated. No punishment is ever meted out for the making of these false allegations. We see APs disobeying Court Orders and failing to turn up for hearings with, again, no punishment. We see contact routinely frustrated and denied by APs intent on destroying their child’s relationship with the other parent – again with no repercussions. And all of these behaviours constitute psychological abuse of our children, while the judges stand idly by, watching with apparent indifference.