Contact orders require “carrot and stick”

13th May 2015 by

An interesting case was heard in the family law courts this week, which presents a bearing on the application of child contact and residence orders.

Hearing a case, Re H-B (Contact) [2015] EWCA Civ 389, in which a father had not seen his now teenaged children since 2008, President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, stressed the importance of parents using “carrot and stick” to ensure the fulfilment of child contact and residence orders.

The court heard that contact between the father and his children ceased in 2008 following a relatively minor domestic altercation between the father’s new wife and the older of his two daughters.

Neither biological parent escaped criticism in the judgement of the case, with Black LF saying that both had “behaved in ways that are destructive to the prospects of contact”. Moreover, he said that the mother had failed to encourage any form of direct contact while the father had at times been “startlingly unwise” in his decision making.

Sir James was emphatic in reminding the court of parental responsibility in such cases.

“There are many things which they ought to do that children may not want to do or even refuse to do: going to the dentist, going to visit some ‘boring’ elderly relative, going to school, doing homework or sitting an examination, the list is endless,” he said. “The parent’s job, exercising all their parental skills, techniques and stratagems – which may include use of both the carrot and the stick and, in the case of the older child, reason and argument –, is to get the child to do what it does not want to do. That the child’s refusal cannot as such be a justification for parental failure is clear: after all, children whose education or health is prejudiced by parental shortcomings may be taken away from their parents and put into public care.”

For advice and information in relation to contact and residence orders and other matters related to the Children Act 1989 call Healys family lawyers today.