Criticism by Court of Parties’ Motives
Introductory – The Issues to be Determined
- On 14 September 2016, I issued judgment in this matter. These reasons should be read in conjunction with those former reasons. The position then was that I had determined, as best I was able, the factual controversies between the parties, which included, as I recorded in the judgment, a number of extremely florid and off-putting mutual complaints and assertions between the parties.
- I then required the views of the two family report writers about the appalling correspondence sent by the father to the mother before proceeding further. As things transpired, it emerged that the preferable way to proceed was to obtain a psychosexual risk report from Dr S, and this has been done.
- The issues that now confront the Court are, therefore, so far as parenting issues are concerned, with whom the children should primarily live, whether there should be sole parental responsibility or joint parental responsibility, and what time the children should spend with the non-primary resident parent.
The Previous History of the Matter
- As earlier indicated, I gave judgment on 14 September 2016 following a three day trial on 18, 19 and 20 July 2016. These latter dates are important for reasons that will become apparent. In the judgment I was, and I expressed my regret then and repeat this now, extremely critical of the three witnesses who were called, of whom the father and mother were two. They were appalling witnesses.
Findings about the facts
- What makes this case so truly astonishing, as in effect Counsel for the Independent Children’s Lawyer submitted, is that following a three day trial in July 2016, during which the parties were unrestrained in making the most florid vituperative assertions about each other, only four days later they sat down with the children to have a perfectly friendly birthday party. This was before judgment was even issued seeking to determine where the truth lay in relation to their competing accusations. Even after the judgment was handed down in September 2016, time continued on a regular and frequent basis until February 2017.
- The photographs that constitute exhibit ICL1, in particular, simply cannot be set aside. It is not possible to avoid the conclusion that the mother has utterly misrepresented her position throughout. I accept the submission of the Independent Children’s Lawyer that she has used these court proceedings for her own ends in the matrimonial struggle with the father.
- Even if, as is perhaps possible, the wife formed the conclusion at the end of the trial that she was at risk of losing custody of the children if she did not foment a relationship with the father (the Independent Children’s Lawyer had submitted that a ‘Sword of Damocles’ should hang over her), I note that she has not called the lawyer whom she says gave her the advice to act as she did. It is possible that the mother only moved to allow the father time with the children because of such a fear. However, the photographs simply do not support, to any significant degree, this version of events. The photograph taken on 24 July 2016, even if the mother was dissimulating as she says, shows [X], a child alleged to have been estranged from the father at that time, entirely relaxed and happy in his presence.
- Both these parties clearly see the outcome of this proceeding as being one that is likely to empower them in their interpersonal dealings. Each of them seek to obtain advantage to that end that is totally unrelated to any objective consideration of the best interests of the children. I do not precisely understand the dynamic that obtains between the father and the mother. Historically, they have separated and reconciled. Frankly, I would not be in any way surprised were they to reconcile again. They have both impressed me as being volatile, immature and insightless. They are also selfish.
- The outcome that the father seeks is plainly designed to disempower the mother whom he feels is over-empowered. The mother has plainly used the Court process capriciously and dishonestly to advance her ends. If even a tithe of what she said during the original proceeding was correct, she could never have allowed the father to spend the time that he did spend from July 2016 until February 2017 with the children, even allowing that she or her daughters are present at all times, and that the time did not involve overnight time. I repeat Counsel for the Independent Children’s Lawyer’s submission. The photographs simply do not tell the story that the mother put in her case. This was Dr S’s evidence also and it is patently true.