A recent study published by CAFCASS has highlighted reasons why children cases return to Court, sometimes again and again.
The 4 main reasons for family matters returning to Court are,
- parental conflict,
- change in life circumstances,
- a child’s wishes and feelings, and
- safeguarding concerns.
In cases of parental conflict in particular, the problem is that parents are not willing to be flexible in respect of Court Orders but instead insisting upon following them rigidly.
In practice, all family Orders require a degree of flexibility to make them work. As children get older, their needs and interests change and the arrangements between parents need to reflect this.
A Court Order should work for the benefit of the child, with their best interests in mind. This issue can often arise when Orders have been made for pre-school children. Once they reach school age an Order that may have worked for a 2 or 3-year-old, may not be appropriate to rigidly stick to for a 4 or 5 year old as the child’s needs and routine have changed.
In cases involving teenagers they may not necessary want to spend every 2nd weekend with a parent and may have their own plans and instead prefer to spend time with friends from time to time.
Even for simple events like birthday parties, this can create difficulties with some parents who insist that the letter of the Order be followed.
This argument of course falls down if the matter reaches the Court as to deny children these experiences may very well be in conflict with what is in their best interests. Certain recordings can be put into the Order to reflect the changes that are anticipated in a child’s life. This can avoid conflict in the future.
There has to be compromise on both sides. In Liverpool disputing parents are usually referred to the Separated Parents Information Programme. This course that looks at the importance of communication between separated parents. It is designed to encourage parents to work collaboratively for the benefit of their child. Parents willing to accept and understand the importance of working together and being flexible over arrangements for their children are much less likely to see the inside of a court.