K –v- D (Parental Conflict)
When parents are intent on destroying each other
In the recently reported case of K –v- D (Parental Conflict)  EWFC49 the CAFCASS officer made some very strong comments about the parents saying the following:
“Both parents are intent on destroying each other. It is very concerning for the children”.
“The ante is being upped every five minutes, it needs to stop”
“In some ways, I feel like a parent, I feel like banging their heads together. They will lose the love of their children if they carry on like this”.
“I do not think these parents realise how much they are damaging their children at this time”.
I doubt any parent wants to read those types of comments about themselves. Whilst this appears to be an extreme and unusual case it is not unfortunately unusual, but is perhaps understandable, that in the wake of a separation it is difficult for parents to communicate and they can lose sight of what is in the best interests of their children.
In this case there were two children aged 12 and 10. Aside from the level of acrimony between the parents there was some other unusual features.
The Father was resident in Dubai and had formed a new relationship and had had a third child about whom the other children had no knowledge.
Separately, the mother had commenced a relationship with her own solicitor shortly after she had instructed him and there had been referrals made to the SRA in this regard both by the Father’s solicitors and also a self-referral from the solicitor himself. At the time of the hearing he remained instructed.
Of note at the time of the hearing, the Mother had spent in relation to Children Act proceedings alone £147,000 and the Father £88,400. They also both had substantial bills in relation to financial proceedings which were ongoing.
At the time the hearing came before the court the children had not seen their father since 1 March 2015 (14 weeks). An order had been made in September 2014 for fortnightly weekend contact but before that the children had not seen their father for 7 months.
In this case on the recommendation of CAFCASS an order was made that the children live with their mother and spend the weekend with their father every four weeks with periods being extended to incorporate up to half the holidays and half-terms. There was an initial embargo on foreign travel but the parties could agree to lift this by consent.
A Family Assistance Order was made requiring CAFCASS to advise and assist the parents and befriend the children for a period of 12 months. The parties were also ordered to attend a Separating Parents Information Programme (known as a SPIP), although arguably this could be seen as too little too late.
This case serves as a warning to all parents to do all they can to try to prevent matters from escalating and to use all of the resources available to them which may include parenting information courses or mediation, together with the more traditional court route to try to reach a resolution with the minimum amount of animosity and cost.
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