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C v C [2005] EWHC 2935 (Fam)

Hearing concerning whether a s37 report should be prepared in long running, intractable contact dispute.

C v C [2005] EWHC 2935 (Fam)

Family Division: Mr Justice Sumner (14 December 2005)

Hearing concerning whether a s37 report should be prepared in long running, intractable contact dispute.

The mother and father married in 1992. They had two children, A, born in 1996 and E, born in 1998. Following the birth of E, the relationship deteriorated and divorce proceedings started in September 2000. The father removed the children and on 20 September 2000 he was granted interim residence with contact to the mother. There were allegations that the mother smacked the children and the case was transferred to the High Court. Since that time the boys have remained with the father but the mother lost contact with A in 2002 and with E in July 2005.

There had been a series of hearings between 2001 and the present hearing. Between 2001 and 2003 a child psychiatrist, Dr Berelowitz, interviewed the children and the parents at different times and reported to the court that the father did not trust him. The children, in particular A, became increasingly hostile to the mother. However in October 2003 a consent order giving shared residence was made with the understanding that A did not want contact with his mother though the father understood that contact was in his best interests. Contact with E was set out in a schedule. During 2004 E became reluctant to speak to his mother and she feared losing contact with him as well. Accordingly Sumner J suggested that NYAS be appointed to act as guardians for the children. This was initially agreed but the father subsequently rejected their involvement. In August 2005 the mother did lose contact following an incident when E refused to go on holiday with her despite a contact order. In the course of the proceedings the father had become increasingly reluctant to co-operate with the psychiatrists involved, eventually preventing them and NYAS from seeing the children, and it was continually alleged that he was turning the children against their mother.

At a hearing in October 2005 NYAS invited the court to order a s. 37 report and this was opposed by the father. His position was that the children had formed their own opinion of the mother based on their own experiences; that they were suffering no harm as a result of his parenting, indeed witness statements demonstrated that they were thriving at school; that NYAS were acting in the mother's interest not those of the children and that the children's best interest would be served if the proceedings were stopped. NYAS contended that the children would suffer in the future if there was no relationship with the mother.

Reviewing the evidence of Dr Berelowitz, therapists at the Tavistock Clinic and the NYAS case workers Sumner J he concluded that there were sufficient grounds to order a s. 37 report. However such an action would cause A and E enormous upset and so, if the father agreed to let the children see a new child psychiatrist, he would not do so at present. Instead he directed that the mother's solicitors should choose a new psychiatrist and that NYAS should make inquiries at the children's school.

Read the full text of the judgment here