High Court Judge publishes ruling in form of letter to teen

family life

High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson has published a family relocation ruling in the form of a letter to the affected child.

The case concerned a 14 year-old referred to in the ruling by the pseudonym ‘Sam’. He lives with his mother and stepfather and sees his biological father regularly. The latter announced plans to go and live in an unidentified Scandinavian country. Sam wanted to do go with him and actually made a court application to be able to do so. Eventually his father took over this application.

The case came before Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who explained:

“At the end of the hearing, I gave my decision in the form of a letter to Sam, which I read to his parents and gave to his solicitor to give to him and to discuss with him.”

The Judge then asked the family whether they thought he should publish the ruling online, as is now routine for most family cases. They readily agreed but apart from the father. He, however, could give no specific reason for his objections.

Written in an informal, accessible language uncharacteristic of legal judgements, the judgement sets out to explain why he  had concluded that the move would not be the boy’s best interests. He referred to the Cafcass officer involved in the case by her first name – ‘Gemma’ -and encouraged Sam to Google the Children Act 1989, which states that the welfare of children in family cases must be the judge’s first priority.

“I believe that your feelings are that you love everyone in your family very much, just as they love you. The fact that your parents don’t agree is naturally very stressful for you, and indeed for them. Gemma could see that when she met you, and so could I when you briefly gave evidence. Normally, even when parents are separated, they manage to agree on the best arrangements for their children. If they can’t, the court is there as a last resort. Unfortunately, in your case, there have been court orders since you were one year old: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 – and now again in 2017. What this shows is how very difficult your parents have found it to reach agreements. This is unusual, but it how you have grown up. The danger is you get used to it.”

He praised the boy for his manner while giving evidence and stressed that his views carried a lot of weight given his maturity. However, the Judge was concerned by the major upheaval which would result from moving to Scandinavia.

“Sam, the evidence shows that you are doing well in life at the moment. You have your school, your friends, your music, and two homes. You’ve lived in England all your life. All your friends and most of your family are here. I have to consider the effect of any change in the arrangements and any harm that might come from it.”

His father had not produced any concrete plans for the move.

“Your father described the move to Scandinavia as an adventure and said that once the court had given the green light, he would arrange everything. That is not good enough.”

He continued:

“I think you would find it exciting at first, but when reality set in, you might become sad and isolated. I also don’t think it is good for you to be with your father 24/7.”

Mr Justice Peter Jackson contrasted the mother’s settled home life with the father’s less conventional lifestyle, describing him as troubled and unhappy because he had “not achieved his goals in life”.

He agreed to allow Sam to spend more time with his father but only if the latter abandoned his plans to move to Scandinavia. He gave the father a deadline of 1 September to decide whether not to go ahead with his move and issued a revised contact schedule featuring visits on alternate weekends which would come into force only if the father elected to say in the UK.

In his introduction to the published ruling, the Judge notes that Sam “received the decision with apparent equanimity.”

Read the ruling here.

Photo by Irene Bonacchi via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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9 comments

Paul - July 28, 2017 at 3:02pm

In short. No we do not rule in favour of fathers. Even when father has your 100% support. However if you said to us you don’t want see your dad we would say thats your choice and we always rule in the best interests of the child.
Only Institutional sexism to observe here.

Maria - November 7, 2017 at 12:45pm

This is an extremely sad case for both father and son and seems fairly pointless as the boy will in two years’ time be able to vote with his feet anyway (so I also question the father’s need to relocate right now when the boy will presumably have exams etc coming up? Presumably he has his reasons).

However, your point regarding children never being made to see fathers if they claim they don’t want to see them is quite simply not true. There are numerous cases in which children are literally ordered to see fathers, and sometimes forcibly moved to live with them if they and the mother do not comply with the order. Have a look at eg TE v SH in which an attempted residence transfer involving an 11-13 year old boy finally failed because the boy threatened suicide and kept running away. There are also numerous cases in which violent and abusive fathers obtain contact with children who keep saying they don’t want it but are ordered to accept it.

I should think you will respond to this comment by telling me I am ‘biased’… however, you do the fathers’ rights movement no favours by distorting the truth to create a false universal narrative of the unjustly deprived dad. It’s all a lot more complicated and case specific than that.

Sam's Dad (really) - November 7, 2017 at 9:09am

Paul, you are right, and there is much much more to this story than one can imagine. “Sam” and I are researching solicitors and ways to either vary, overturn, appeal, obtain judicial review and/or human rights violation redress for the judgement rendered by Peter Jackson in family court earlier this year. From what little research has been undertaken so far it seems very likely we would prevail due to many inconsistencies in the reports, hearings and judgement.
.
Anyone who can suggst helpful ways to go about this, please post info here.
.
With thanks in advance.
“A Father” aka Dad

JamesB - November 7, 2017 at 5:53pm

It is stressful for the children when their parents can’t agree. First and only thing I have agreed with a family law judge on for a contentious matter for many years.

Minimising conflict is a priority. This meant not hitting back while being assaulted picking kids up. Mobile phones taking video saved me from that stuff.

It is worth seeing your children and being insulted by the professionals and seemingly everyone else including losing friends and starting again to get there. The bulletin (like most of the judges statement, eg parents usually agree – no they don’t, it’s just most people don’t go to court as they get insulted as you did the fathet) needs to stop flowing.

JamesB - November 7, 2017 at 5:56pm

By bulletin, meant nonsense, it was another automatic spellchecker phone error thing, or another word others may be able to work out.

JamesB - November 7, 2017 at 6:02pm

First thing I have agreed with a carcass person on for years also. Normally all the divorce industry do in court is wind up Dad then shout at him when he gets confused then tell him he has lost for no understandable reason. The issue is Dads (or Mums) have no rights and these children orders aren’t enforceable, which is why changes to status quo arguments with massive merit tend to fall. Oops, the empower has no clothes.

Sams Dad (really) - November 17, 2017 at 10:53am

JamesB, I thank you very much for you insights. If possible can you steer me towards where I can find it in law that these children’s orders aren’t enforceable? Thanks again for supportive comments.
(*Comment moderated)

Sams Dad (really) - November 17, 2017 at 10:58am

Maria, thanks for you comments. One thing that is noteworthy is that the judgement runs through September 2019 when he’s just two months shy of turning 17. So in effect the judge decided that my son CANNOT vote with his feet at sixteen like all other young adults in his shoes could.

Any comment on this fact would be appreciated.
(*Comment moderated)

Sams Dad (really) - November 17, 2017 at 11:09am

JamesB, I thank you very much for you insights. If possible can you steer me towards where I can find it in law that these children’s orders aren’t enforceable? Thanks again for supportive comments.

Maria, thanks for you comments. One thing that is noteworthy is that the judgement runs through September 2019 when he’s just two months shy of turning 17. So in effect the judge decided that my son CANNOT vote with his feet at sixteen like all other young adults in his shoes could. Any comment on this fact would be appreciated.

(*Comment moderated – please see our moderation policy here).

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