Practice and Procedure

IP v NP (2003)

PUBLISHED February 17, 2003

The court directed that the papers in the case should be seen by a child psychiatrist before deciding whether to hold a hearing on a father's application to enforce existing orders for contact with his two daughters or to dismiss the application summarily as sought by the mother.Application by a father ('IP') for an order to vary or enforce existing contact orders with his two daughters ('F' and 'A') who lived with their mother ('NP'). IP and NP were first cousins. NP came to the United Kingdom in 1986. NP and IP were married in India in 1990 and IP came to the UK in 1994. F was born in 1993 and A in 1995. NP and IP separated in 1996 when IP left. IP said that NP had made false claims about him to the police. NP said that IP used violence upon her, normally when the children were not present. The father began proceedings for contact in 1996 and a consent order for contact was made in 1997 which was unsuccessful. The mother opposed contact. In 2002 the matter was transferred to the High Court and a report was requested from a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) legal officer considering among other things the reason why contact had not taken place and what recommendations could be made for future involvement of experts or other disciplines. The officer reported that there had been no direct contact for three years. He did not recommend an investigation into the background allegations between the parties. as he did not believe it would have any significant outcome. He considered that the children had been brought up with a clear belief of the truth of NP's account and consequent antipathy towards IP. He saw no improvement in NP's position with or without expert intervention. There was no overwhelming reason why IP should not have a relationship with the children but contact could not come about without a significant change in NP which would not occur. To continue the proceedings would be abusive of the children and in their interests he recommended that the proceedings should be dealt with summarily on the basis of indirect contact. IP applied for a one day hearing to test all the evidence and show that there was no reason why he should not have contact with his two daughters. NP said that IP's application should be summarily dismissed. CAFCASS recommended that IP's application for residence and direct contact be dismissed and that there should be indirect contact.HELD: (1) Before embarking either on a one day hearing or dismissal of IP's application, the court would direct that the papers should be seen by a child psychiatrist. In the first place the report would be limited. If the recommendations included an interview with the two children, NP should have a right to make further representations if she wished to object to such a course. (2) There were three particular features that influenced the court to make such a direction, looking at the children's welfare as the first consideration. First there was the harm being done by IP's sustained antipathy towards the father which she was plainly sharing with the children. She was depriving them of any knowledge or even contact with their father whose health was significantly deteriorating. Secondly the children themselves had no adverse recollection of the father nor did they know whether they liked seeing him in the past or not. Thirdly the parents and children were members of unusually close families. (3) The history was of a mother who had successfully imbued the children with a negative attitude even when it was seen that their distress was at times artificial. The balance between the harm that was doing and the potential harm of actual contact required further consideration in the children's best interest.Judgment accordingly.

[2003] EWHC 151 (Fam)