Contact order enforced through change of residence

A recent English court appeal judgment denied an application by a mother to re-consider a court decision to move children from living with their mother to living with the father.

In this case a court order was made for the children to spend time with the father on alternate weekends and in the school holidays. As the years passed, the contact did not take place  and applications were made to enforce the contact orders.

The parents had agreed that there should be therapeutic intervention for the children, which continued, off and on, over these years. The elder child stopped attending contact in the summer of 2018 despite attempts made by an independent social worker, despite orders of the court and despite the parents instructing counsellors or therapists to work with the child. The younger child also stopped attending contact for a period in 2018 but restarted attending following an order of the court made in October 2019.

An expert report considered by the court in 2020 concluded that the mother was alienating the children and made recommendations about where the children should live and how much time they should spend with their mother.  The children were moved to live with their father by decision of the court in June 2021, with further hearings confirming this arrangement in October 2021 and February 2022.

The appeal judge turned down the mother’s June 2022 application to re-open the case, stating that: “The current position is that the children live with the father; they appear to be doing very well at school; they have a good friendship group; they are engaged in out-of-school activities; and, most importantly, they spend good quality time with their mother on a regular basis at weekends and in the school holidays.”

In  restricting further applications, the judge stated: “I am satisfied that this is a case in which a section 91(14) order is necessary. I weigh the potential damage that will be caused to the children if there is further litigation. They need to settle into the routine that I put in place a year ago. The children need to continue to have good contact with their mother and to spend good time with their father. They need to enjoy their life at school and to continue to get involved in all of their out-of-school activities with their friends. The children do not need social workers, guardians, therapists or counsellors. They do not need the spectre of court cases hanging over them.”

The judge also allowed the naming of the jointly-appointed expert who produced the report – Melanie Gill, who is a psychologist with experience in parental alienation cases.   The resulting press coverage of this case focused on whether Melanie Gill is properly qualified to provide the expert opinion or therapeutic recommendations.   It totally ignored the positive outcome for these children and the apparent success in enforcing the court order.