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Pauffley J commends the ‘constructive collaboration’ of parents in dispute

Parents assisted by ‘highly skilled, insightful and intuitive representatives’

In Re J and K (Children: Private Law) [2014] EWHC 330 (Fam) Mrs Justice Pauffley has praised the approach of parents and advocates in, what she described as,' this most satisfactory of collaborative efforts'.

Pauffley J explained in her judgment that for more than 10 years there had been court conflict (involving 24 hearings) between the parents of twins, now twelve and a half years old. Various issues had arisen – parental responsibility, contact (how much, how often, staying or visiting, the arrangements for collection and delivery), the children's last names – but overall the battle had been about the role which their father should properly occupy in the children's lives.

At a directions appointment in November 2013 Pauffley J made some practical proposals as to how the parents might interact with one another in their sons' presence so as to make their transitions from one home to the other a less tense and a more enjoyable experience. In particular, she suggested that when the boys were dropped off and picked up each parent should be made welcome in the home of the other, invited to sit down around the kitchen table and offered a cup of tea.

The parents reacted positively to those suggestions and, the judge reported, since then, according to the father, the contact order had been followed "to the letter"; more gratifyingly still,  the boys have "gone from being hostile, even aggressive" towards him and his family "to playing and seemingly having fun..."

Pauffley J said that the parents had been assisted by 'highly skilled, insightful and intuitive representatives'. The father was represented by a McKenzie friend, Ms Bushell, a former guardian with extensive experience, who spoke on his behalf. Francesca Wiley, of 1 Garden Court, agreed to act pro bono for the mother at late notice. Edward Kirkwood of Harcourt Chambers acted for the Children's Guardian. The parents were, said the judge, 'in the hands of individuals unafraid to show kindness, generosity and with a desire to help others'.

The judgment is here.