What is an unnecessary application when child arrangements are disputed?

14th October 2020

A recent case, heard by HHJ Wildblood in Bristol has highlighted to lawyers and clients alike the importance of only involving the Court in child arrangement disputes where absolutely necessary.

Child arrangements case

In the case B (A Child) (Unnecessary Private Law Applications) [2020] EWFC B44, firm comments were made as to the nature of applications brought to the Court. HHJ Wildblood gave examples of micro-management requests he had dealt with in respect to child arrangements, including asking at which junction of the M4 a handover should take place, which parent should hold the children’s passports, and how contact could be arranged on a Sunday afternoon.

He said that many other Judges have given him similar examples. He commented that such cases, deemed to be unnecessary use of Court time, should be settled away from Court, except where that is not possible. He went further to say that if unnecessary matters are brought before the Court, lawyers and clients alike will be criticised and sanctions may be imposed upon them.

Assistance we provide

At Blake Morgan, we, too, have experienced requests for assistance with minor matters in child arrangement proceedings. We consider that these may include:

  • Whether a child should take a bike to arranged contact with a parent.
  • Whether a child should travel to contact with a favoured soft toy or not.
  • Whether contact should begin at 9am or 9.15am.
  • Whether FaceTime or Skype should be used for indirect contact.
  • Whether to meet at a particular pub/café for the hand-over.
  • Whether the hand-over point has to be exactly mid-way between the separated parents’ homes or does it matter if it is slightly closer to one rather than another.

It is important to remember that these issues will almost certainly not have been trivial to the parties (and sometimes children) involved. Often, parties can become so entrenched in a position that it is near impossible to reach a compromise. However, this case stresses the importance of considering alternative methods of dispute resolution. These can include:

  • mediation with a third party mediator and other supporting parties such a family counsellor if necessary;
  • arbitration before an agreed or independently selected arbitrator; and
  • collaborative law, where both parties will be represented by solicitors in round table meetings.

Blake Morgan can assist with all methods of dispute resolution, and Court proceedings if necessary; for further information on this and child arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact the Family team.

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