There is a commonly held belief that the Family Court favours mothers when deciding upon arrangements for children.
But this is simply not true. The court’s decision will be based upon what is best for the welfare of the children, not upon any bias in favour of one particular parent.
And that may well mean that the court will decide in favour of a father rather than a mother, as was demonstrated in a recent case that took place in the Family Court at Oxford.
The case concerned two boys, aged 12 and 9. The father (as we will describe him) was not actually the biological father of the younger boy, but had treated the boy as his own.
The parents (as we will call them) separated in 2016, and initially the boys lived with their mother, spending regular time with the father.
However, social services became involved with the family in 2019, following concerns about the level of conflict between the parents about arrangements for contact, and about the boys in their mother’s care – the mother was finding it difficult to put in place positive parenting strategies, in part due to her own mental and physical health needs.
Early in 2022 the mother was having a difficult time emotionally, and asked the father to look after the boys. They therefore moved to live with him, although the mother later sought to have them returned to her.
The local authority and the father had become very concerned about the boys’ welfare in their mother’s care at this time and in June the father, with the support of the local authority, applied to the court for an order that they remain with him.
The court decided the matter by reference to the ‘welfare checklist’ of factors that it should take into account when considering what is best for the welfare of children.
Amongst those factors the court found that:
1. The boys had said very clearly and consistently over a long time that they would like to stay living with their father, and the court was satisfied that they were expressing their true wishes and feelings, and had not been influenced by the father, or anyone else.
2. The mother had not shown that she was able to meet the boys’ needs.
3. If the boys were to go back and live with their mother they would be at risk of suffering significant harm.
4. The boys were happy living with their father, his partner and her children, and had made excellent progress whilst living with them. A move back to their mother’s would be disruptive, and would undo a lot of that progress.
In the circumstances, the court decided that it should make an order that the boys should live with their father and his partner.
You can read the full judgment in the case here.
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