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Interim orders revisited where child is now older

Interim orders revisited where child is now older

CONSIDERATION

  1. In my view it is significant that the child was two years and eleven months old at the time of the orders of 6 June 2016 and that she is now aged four years and nine months. She is thus at a more advanced stage in her development and at the age when Dr H contemplated the introduction of unsupervised time with the father. These matters persuade me that it is now appropriate to reconsider what interim parenting orders are in the best interests of the child. I would note that a fresh interim hearing now will not mean that she is subjected to interviews and assessments by an expert.
  2. In so far as I am aware, the Order of 26 November 2015 which granted sole parental responsibility for the child to the mother remains on foot. Accordingly I am not required to consider whether it is then the child’s best interests, and reasonably practicable, that she spend equal or substantial and significant time with each parent. In any event, the father seeks no such orders. To his credit, he seeks only orders that the child spend limited day only periods in his care.
  3. Essentially two issues were raised by the parties at the interim hearing. Firstly, the father sought to extend the child’s time with him from 3.00 pm until 7.00 pm to 3.00 pm until 8.00 pm on Fridays and from 9.00 am until 1.00 pm to 9.00 am until 5.00 pm on Sundays. Secondly, the father sought a removal of all requirements for “accompaniment” during the child’s time with him.
  4. The ICL submitted that there is no necessity for “accompaniment” of all the child’s time with the father. The ICL suggested that the child and the father be “accompanied” for “the first couple of hours and longer if the accompanying person deems necessary.”
  5. Dr H expressed these opinions in relation to the impact of the father’s mental illness on his parental capacity:

Whilst the medication controls his acute psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, medication such as antipsychotic medication does not control or stop the social and interpersonal deficits that accompany schizoaffective disorder. Although the prognosis with his condition is good in relation to remaining stable and not psychotic it doesn’t change his ability to function interpersonally and is likely to continue to struggle with this. This also has implications for his parenting and being able to understand and deal with the sophisticated issues that often confront children.

  1. Dr H opined further:

[Mr Padley] does have a disability in that he suffers from his chronic mental condition which impacts on his ability to function at a sophisticated interpersonal level. However he is quite capable of functioning and providing care at a functional level. The main issue is being able to use his judgment regarding subtleties such as impulse control and delaying and monitoring. For example being able to judge whether a child’s language is appropriate and being able to wait for her growth. The example of his poor judgment include arranging for the child to have physiotherapy for mobility, then speech therapy and blood tests with regard to bruising.

  1. I see no reason at all to doubt the father’s evidence that he has seen his psychiatrist, Dr G regularly since February 2009. Similarly, I have no reason to doubt his evidence that he takes his prescribed medication on a regular basis.
  2. I accept the evidence of the father, to the effect that the “accompaniment” requirement has caused inconvenience to members of his family who have taken on this role. Despite this inconvenience, the father’s family has facilitated the child’s time with him for a period approaching two years.
  3. I accept also that the father’s family holds a regular dinner each Friday night and that he regards this event as an important part of the child’s heritage. The father deposed that he must leave the dinner after the first course in order to return the child to the mother at 7.00 pm.
  4. The ICL did not support an extension of the child’s time with the father at this stage. It seemed to be foreshadowed that the parties would seek an updated report from Dr H in the reasonably immediate future, and, in my view, an extension of time would best await the availability of this additional expert evidence.
  5. I accept the mother’s evidence that a weekly conclusion of time with the father at 8.00 pm would be a tiring experience for the child. For that reason also, I am not prepared to extend time on Friday evenings. I would have taken a different view in relation to a one-off special occasion.
  6. The parents and the ICL have agreed to a scaling back of the “accompaniment” requirement, which has been implemented since the orders of 10 November 2017. The father deposed that the child has spent time alone with him on forty occasions since the orders of 10 November 2017 and that there have been no concerning incidents. I accept this evidence.
  7. I am persuaded that a further, but not total, removal of the requirement for “accompaniment” is now appropriate and in the best interests of the child. I am of the view that they should have greater freedom do enjoyable activities and participate in the events of daily life together.
  8. It seems to me that accompaniment for the first hour of the child’s time with the father would be sufficient to ensure that there is no likelihood of any difficulties on that particular day. I am prepared to assume that all of the people listed in the Orders of 10 November 2017 would remain with the father and the child if they perceived that there was any reason to do so in the child’s best interests. I will make orders accordingly.

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