Family

Children reunited with biological father after being adopted

There is no decision that a court can take which is more important than removing children and placing them in the care of social services, possibly to be adopted outside their family. We are very experienced in and committed to fighting very hard on behalf of parents and other family members. While there is no guarantee that the family will be successful, we are very pleased when they satisfy the court that this is the right outcome. We believe that we make a significant contribution in such cases through sympathetic representation and support for our client and taking a very active part in the court process. Recent successful cases have included one where a single parent father originally from Africa succeeded in regaining the care of most of his young children against the odds after a long struggle through the Court.

Allegations of Domestic Violence

We represented a Father of two children. The parties were married and separated some 5 years ago. The Mother made numerous allegations of domestic violence against the Father, including allegations of sexual abuse and sought an injunction preventing contact and his removal from the family home.

These allegations were investigated by the Local Authority and found to be untrue. The Court rescinded the injunctions against the Father and ordered supervised contact. Contact was very positive and the matter concluded with a shared Residence Order (as was).

The Local Authority was re-involved following a deterioration in the Mother’s mental health and we once again represented the Father. The matter concluded with a sole Residence Order in the Father’s favour given that this was determined to be the best place for the children. The Mother sought contact but her continued reluctance to engage with a Psychiatric assessment meant that this could not be sanctioned given the risks posed to the children.

The children have now settled well in their Father’s care and continue to thrive both academically and socially.

Children Matters in the Court of Appeal

The matter involved the Mother’s appeal of final Child Arrangement Orders and associated Orders in relation to one child and Care Orders with regards to the remaining two children.

The Mother originated from South America where the children A and B were born.  The Father of both is thought to be deceased.  The Mother and children subsequently moved to Europe marrying a UK citizen on their return to the UK.  In the UK, the Mother gave birth to a third child, C.   The parties separated in 2009 with the Father moving to a British Protectorate within the following year.  The Mother and the children remained in the UK.  They travelled to London some four years later relying on domestic violence by the ex-spouse as the reason for doing so.

The Mother then left the children in the care of a stranger, against advice, returning to her home returning to her home for a period.    The children were taken into Police Protection and placed in foster care where they remained throughout the proceedings which were issued immediately.  The Mother was offered accommodation and financial support in order for her to remain in London which was refused and she returned home.  The Local Authority issued Care Proceedings upon and Interim Care Orders were granted.  The Mother had supervised contact with the children in London.

Following a positive assessment, the Local Authority’s final Care Plan was to place child C with her Father abroad under a Child Arrangement Order.  Further other Orders to protect the child and Father and leave to remove the child from the jurisdiction were also sought and obtained.

The Local Authority sought long term fostering for A and B given their ages and this was granted.   The Local Authority formulated a very detailed transition plan which was sensitive to the needs of all three children to allow C to live with her Father.  He agreed to continue promoting the high level of contact via Skype, telephone calls and direct contact between the siblings, recognising the importance of promoting these relationships.

The Mother sought permission from the Court of Appeal to stay and overturn the Orders that had been made but this was refused as was any leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Judge was satisfied that the Court which had made these Final Orders had carefully considered the expert reports and the oral evidence given throughout the five day Final Hearing.  The children had been prepared for C’s departure and it was believed by all that it would have been a retrograde step for the plans not to be pursued in light of the emotional fragility of each of the children.

The children continue to enjoy regular contact and child C has settled well in her Father’s care.

Overcoming Domestic Violence

Jenny represented a vulnerable client whose self-esteem was very low, as she had experienced years of domestic violence. The Local Authority had concerns about the client reconciling with the violent ex-partner, and the emotional harm that this would cause their child and issued care proceedings, seeking removal of her child. The client obtained a non-molestation order against her ex-partner with Jenny’s assistance, and engaged with domestic violence work, which built up her self-confidence and strengthened her resolve not to reunite with her ex-partner. The client worked hard and demonstrated that she could prioritise her child’s needs over her own by not resuming the unhealthy relationship and her confidence grew and grew. The Local Authority and Children’s Guardian were impressed by the client’s hard work and determination and proceedings were concluded with the child remaining in the client’s care.

Over-stayer unable to care for Child

Nanette was instructed by a client who had been caring for a 5 year old boy for three years.  He was not a close relative of the client as the child’s father was her cousin.  The mother had immigration issues and was an over stayer having brought her son with her from Jamaica but found herself unable to cope as she had gone on to have two further children in the UK.   Mother was not entitled to benefits and it was not known how she was supporting herself.  Our client was in receipt of benefits for herself only and struggled to make ends meet.  The arrangement to look after the child was not known to the local authority and so was not monitored by the local authority as a private fostering arrangement.

Our client had facilitated contact between mother and the child all the time the child had been in her care.  This had been difficult as mother was an angry person and unpredictable in her behaviour and moods. Mother had been aggressive and assaulted our client and tried to remove the child.  Our client was worried that mother would again try to remove the child from her care and/or assault her further.  The police had made a referral to the local authority.  There were two different local authorities involved as mother lived in a different local authority.

Our client was advised that only mother had parental responsibility for the child in our client’s care at present. The client was advised that she could make an application for a residence order (now a Child Arrangements Order) and if granted that would give her parental responsibility for the child.   She was also advised to apply for an order prohibiting mother from removing the child from her care.

Our client was advised to make an application for a special guardianship orders as it was likely that she would in the future need to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of mother.  Initially it was better to apply for an interim residence order (now a Child Arrangements Order) and obtain an order prohibiting mother from removing the child from her care as she would have to give notice to the local authority of her intention to apply for a SGO.  We gave immediate notice to the local authority of her intention to apply for a special guardianship order for the child.

Our client was advised her on an application for a non-molestation order to include an order that mother was not allowed to enter the road in which our client lives.

The client was granted a prohibited steps order, interim residence order and a non-molestation order was also granted in the terms sought.

The Section 7 report recommended the child continued to reside with our client.   The report recognised it was unlikely mother would ever willingly cooperate with our client and noted that child protection procedures had been commenced by the local authority for the area in which mother resided in respect of her two youngest child as it was suspected mother was neglecting and physically abusing the children.

The child was joined as a party to the proceedings and a guardian and solicitor appointed for the child. While the reports in respect of the Special Guardianship order were awaited our client’s grandmother died in Jamaica.  She went to Jamaica and took the child with her on a Jamaican travel document.   Unfortunately our client then found that she was stuck in Jamaica and as the child could not get back into the UK on his Jamaican travel document.  The UK border authorities in Jamaica had refused to issue a visa for the child.

The case was transferred to the High Court.  Counsel applied for directions that the Secretary of State for the Home Office and Secretary of State for the Foreign Office file and serve position statements as to what was happening with the child’s application for a visa and to attend the next hearing.  The court made the orders sought.

The local authority had filed and served their special guardianship report which recommended that our client be granted a special guardianship order for the child.   The Guardian also recommended that our client be granted a special guardianship order for the child.

There were a further two hearings in the High Court attended by representatives of the Foreign Office and Home Office.   Eventually our client and the child were escorted onto a plane by a member of the embassy staff in Jamaica and met by a member of the Border Agency in the UK and escorted through passport control with a temporary visa having been granted to the child.

The case concluded with a special guardianship order being made to our client and contact arrangements between the siblings being supervised by the second local authority as both younger children were then in foster care.

Domestic Violence

The client was visibly distressed and nervous about speaking to someone outside the family. She had been verbally abused and physically assaulted on a regular basis over the 9 years of the marriage.  Eight months earlier she had left the joint bedroom and commenced sleeping in the bedroom of her 7 year old son. The husband had stopped speaking to her for several months and this came as a relief.  

There had been three occasions where the husband had come into her son’s bedroom late at night and forced our client to have sexual relations with him.  Our client was advised that forcing her to have sex with him against her will was a serious criminal offence and he could be arrested and charged with rape. The client was adamant that she did not want to report the rapes to the police but wanted them to stop.  

What had forced her to visit a solicitor was that the husband had locked her out of the matrimonial home the previous week.   The client had taken the children to visit her brother and his wife and returned with the children shortly before midnight.    The husband had put his key in the inside of the door and so she could not open the door. The husband did not answer the telephone or the door. 

Our client was advised to make an application immediately without notice to the husband under the Family Law Act 1996 for a non-molestation order and occupation order.  I exercised my devolved powers and granted her public funding.   As the property was registered at the land Registry in the sole name of her husband she was advised her that she needed to enter a Notice of Matrimonial Homes Rights on Form HR1 and register that form with the Land Registry.

We sought an order declaring her right not to be excluded from the property, declaration of her matrimonial home rights and seek an order for sole occupation of the eldest child’s bedroom which the client was using as her bedroom. We also advised her to seek a power of arrest to be attached to the relevant parts of the order.

The non-molestation order was granted in the usual terms for 12 months, with leave to the Respondent to apply on 48 hours’ notice. The occupation order was made as sought with a power of arrest attached.  A return date was fixed 2 weeks later for the client’s application to suspend the Respondent’s occupation of the matrimonial home to be considered by the court. A power of arrest was attached to the paragraphs dealing with the non-eviction declaration and the exclusion from the eldest son’s bedroom. A return date was fixed by the court on the application for the occupation order. 

The Respondent attended the return date and was in person. Both parties stated that they wanted to work towards reconciliation and were happy for the existing order to continue while they attended counselling. The occupation order was made in the same terms for 12 months.

Maternal family granted contact with adopted Child

This case involved an application for a contact order which was opposed by the prospective adoptive parent. The Court made an adoption order but also made a limited contact order. The grandmother issued the application for contact, Mike Tait represented the Mother, who also wished to have contact. The grandmother had been having direct supervised contact with her grandson under an interim contact order.  Ultimately, the Court decided that it was in the child’s best interests and necessary for his welfare to continue to have contact with his maternal birth family. This is the first and only case where contact has been directed upon the adoption of a child.

Children Act proceedings involving six children

Mike Tait represented a Father of six children ranging in ages of 14 to 2 years. The children were removed from the care of their parents due to allegations that the Mother had been physically abusive to the eldest daughter, placing the younger children at risk. The second eldest child has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and was deemed to require a high level of care.

Our client, the father, wished to have all six children placed in his care. However, after various assessments, it was concluded that he would not be able to manage the care of all the children, given their individual high levels of need. Ultimately, the eldest and younger child were placed with a Paternal Aunt under a Special Guardianship Order, the second eldest child, due to his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome was placed in a Residential Unit (a boarding school for children who have similar needs for high level of care). The other three children were placed with our client under a Supervision Order which expired after a year. The family is now doing well and they remain close knit.

A Mother’s development

A client returned to Mike and Sandy upon the birth of her third child. This Mother’s first two children were removed from her care due to high concerns about domestic violence in her relationship with the Father, whom she was not willing to separate from. We believe that despite our client experiencing outcomes in her first to cases which were not in her favour and resulted in the adoption of her two children, she recognised the hard work and dedication of this firm and believed that we would work hard once again to try and reach a positive outcome.

After the adoption of the second child, the Judge outlined in his judgement what our client would need to in the event she has another child to prevent him/her being removed from our client’s care. To her credit, she attempted to work on the issues highlighted straightaway. Upon the birth of her child, our client, the Father and baby were placed in a unit for a Residential Parenting Assessment. However, the assessment was peppered with incidents and our client and her husband struggled in the closely monitored environment.

Ultimately, the parents were negatively assessed as being capable of parenting their child due to the nature of their relationship. Crucially however, there were no criticism of our client and her partner’s ability to meet the needs of the child. However, at the next Court hearing the Local Authority proposed a plan to remove the child and place her for adoption. Powell Spencer and Partners highlighted to the Court that further assessment would be required of our client and the Father given the gaps in the evidence as suggested by the assessment. This was opposed by the Local Authority. The Court agreed with us.

Our client and the baby were then placed in a mother and baby unit, with the father able to visit every day to allow them to be assessed by an Independent Social Worker and Psychologist. The further two assessments returned as positive for our client and at the next hearing, the Court agreed to allow our client to return home with the baby.

At the Final Hearing, it was directed that the child remain with our client and the father under a Supervision Order, which is to expire after one year. It goes without saying, our client was very pleased with the outcome of this matter.