"Dig Those Crazy Judges:
The Wit and Wisdom of Britain's Secret Family Court
The Wit and Wisdom of Britain's Secret Family Court
July 14, 2004
[All cases involved straight-forward contact applications with no significant allegations made by either party. Full documentation available.]
A Typical District Court Judge [case in progress], in dealing with a normal father who for four years post-divorce had been enjoying almost daily
contact with his child, as well as full weekends and holidays, has recently made the following orders:
a) for almost no contact (at the mother’s request) until the full hearing - some six to nine months after the father's initial application
b) a full CAFCASS report on the risks inherent in any future contact between father and child - in the absence of any substantive charges made
against the father
Lord Justice Thorpe, in a recent interview in Times Law, characterised the outrage of tens of thousands of families across Britain - most of whom
have lost all meaningful contact with their children and grandchildren for no good reason - as "ignorance and disturbed emotion."
Mr Justice Munby failed to order, or enforce, any contact for what he termed a "wholly deserving father," whose case was " far from unique," who had been cut off from all contact with his children since 2001. Mr Munby went on to extol the virtues of the Early Interventions Pilot, which proposes that normal contact should be established immediately after separation, on the presumption that normal contact will be ordered (and enforced) by the first judge who hears the case. (Can you spot the problem? Munby can’t.)
Lady Justice Butler-Sloss informed a parent and grandparent that she could do little (if anything) to overturn a lower court decision restricting
contact to unbearable levels, even in cases where the preceding judge may appear to have been grossly negligent in his duty. Judge Masterman
reduced a father’s contact with his 4-year old son (who had been living with the father for the previous year) to 1 hours supervised contact
per week on the grounds that the father might say something to turn the child against the mother.
Mr Justice Wall, in a case where a father had been denied all contact with his 12 year old son for five years, criticized the father in open
court for continuing to conduct appeals on his child's behalf.
Lord Justice Ward, in hearing the appeal of an order allowing a mother and her female partner to move two young children to Australia without any defined contact for the father, stated that the Court of Appeal had no power to intervene in a case where the higher court felt it would have come to an opposite conclusion.
Mr Justice Singer ordered that a ten year old boy spend the weekend with his mother despite the boy's long-held claims that the mother had
physically abused him, and had threatened to kill him claims which had not been disputed by the Court Welfare Officer assigned to the case.
When the boy refused to leave his father, the judge told the child (in the hall outside court): 'If you don’t go with your Mum I'll put you in a place
where you can’t see your mother or your father–how would you like that?"
Lord Justice Ward warned a father who was seeking more than five hours contact with his four year old son per fortnight that he should write
neither his MP, nor the media, regarding the state of Britain's secret family court, for to do so might harm his case.
Judge Goldstein, responding to a father who sought improved contact with his daughter partly on the grounds that he wished to help her learn more
about her Palestinian culture and language: "Spending time with a child is all about fun, going to McDonald’s, etc., not jamming her throat with
Arabic text books and Holy Book."
8 District and High Court Judges: In a three year case extending over more than twenty hearings, none of the presiding judges have told a mother who has broken a contact order more than one hundred times either a) that contact is a good thing, or b) that breaking court orders is wrong.
Dame Justice Hale: in a case where a father was appealing an earlier decision of only one hour contact per month, concluded that "this
appeal is unmeritorious".
Judge Catlin: a) when a mother refused to obey an order for shared residence, he ordered the cessation of all contact between a father
and his two sons in response to unsubstantiated charges of abuse; b) at a subsequent hearing 12 months later, when all charges of abuse had
been dismissed by the investigating officer, he ordered 1 hour of contact between father and son per month.
Mister Justice Sumner: ordered costs against a father who sought any summer holidays with his child.
Mister Justice Johnson: ordered a father declared a vexatious litigant for seeking more than one overnight per fortnight with his 5-year old son.
Upheld on appeal by Thorpe.
Mr Justice Sumner: "It is simply not on" for any parent to return a 3 1/2 year old child home as late as 6 pm on a Sunday.
District Judge Kenworthy-Browne: A child of 3 "will have developed no Christmas associations with the father, and even if he has spent
Christmases at the father's home, he will not remember them. As such, he will not expect increased contact with his father over the holidays."
District Judge X (case pending): ordered the cessation of all contact between parent and child, with no review, "in order to try to move
forward and restore the relationship."
Judge Segal: cancelled after 30 minutes a full hearing at which the father sought any summer holidays and rescheduled it for after the summer.
Upheld on appeal.
District Judge Lipman: ordered that a father be allowed only 2 weeks of holiday (out of a possible 13) per year: "You have the midweek contact
(3 hrs per week) instead of this."
District Judge Hindley: dismissed a father's application to phone his 7 yr old daughter on Christmas morning calling it "too disruptive she
would be opening her Christmas presents."
Judge Milligan, to a parent who had been unsuccessfully trying to see his child for 2 years: "This is a father who needs, in my judgment, to
think long and hard about his whole approach to this question of contact and to ask himself sincerely whether in fact he seeks to promote it for his
own interests dressed up as the child’s interests."
District Judge X (case pending): ordered that a father who had not been allowed to see his children for 4 months should have his case deferred
for another 4 months pending investigation of an unsubstantiated 1972 domestic disagreement from a previous marriage.
Mr Justice Cazalet: in hearings spaced over 2 years 1) ordered end of Friday overnights on grounds that the child had to rest after school,
and 2) ordered end of Saturday overnights on grounds that she had to rest all day Sunday before school on Monday.
Deputy District Judge Pauffley, in raising a father’s contact to 18 hours per month after 11/2 years of litigation: "What will never be helpful
is for the father to see his contact in terms of mathematical division. Apparently he is running at a disadvantage of 999 to 1 . . . The court
does not look at it in those terms."
District Judge Thomas, in reply to a father who had been cut off from all contact with this three children for six months: “And I see that you
would like me to grant an Order that the mother file a statement to show good reason why there should not be normal contact. Well, I’m not
going to do it!”
Judge Calman ordered that a father, who lived within 300 yards of his son’s primary residence, should never answer the door when his son rang.
Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe, in rejecting the appeal of a father who wanted to cross-examine a Court Welfare Officer (whose evidence prevented
him from seeing his children), affirmed that "there is no right of cross examination of Court Welfare Officers."
Mr Justice Wilson, acting against what he called “the deep wishes and feelings of three intelligent, articulate children,” ordered the end
of all direct contact with their father. Upheld on appeal by Butler-Sloss, LJ.
Judge X (case pending): after repeat applications about serial breaches of a contact order since early 2001, ordered that the issue be reviewed
in late 2002.
Mr Justice Munby ordered the end of all direct contact between a father and his three children while noting that the mother "wished the children
could have contact with the father. She said there was no need for all this litigation. The children should see the father."
Judge Segal postponed a full hearing in order to obtain a Court Welfare Officer report on two parents who had brought no charges of misconduct
against one another by stating: "Well, I think both parents have fallen over backwards to avoid causing the child any sort of harm, but a child
always suffers when a marriage breaks down . . . You see, it is possible to kill with kindness by doing too much."
Mr Justice Sumner reproved a father who had made one application to the court over two years of litigation, and sought more than twenty-six
nights of contact with his child per year: "You feel better because you can put pressure, you can bring everybody to court."
Judge Turner, in reply to a parent who sought to question a Court Welfare Officer’s report: "That confirms my suspicions. This is what members
of the public do when they disagree with the recommendations. I believe that its totally wrong that members of the public can challenge Judges
and Court Welfare Officers. Officers should not be subjected to it. There is a procedure outside the Court about making a complaint against the
Judge. Members of the public should not have the right to make complaints."
Judge Agliomby, on refusing overnight contact for the third consecutive year: "The point that struck me most was that the very first question
the father asked the mother was whether they might not get on better if she let him see the child."
Judge Lamdin dismissed a father’s request (after three years of litigation) for any overnight contact with his six year old on the grounds that
"the child is growing up knowing his father, and that what we are talking about, i.e. overnight staying contact, is something quite different."
Judge Kenworthy-Browne, known by the staff at First Avenue House for repeatedly bringing his dog to court, rebuked a litigant-in-person for
not wearing a tie.
Senior District Judge Angel misinformed a complainant that "there is an unrestricted right of appeal" in contact cases. (There is, in fact, little
if any right of appeal.) When this was brought to the attention of the President of the Family Division, her office replied that she "considered
the matter closed."
Mr Justice Munby sentenced a father to four months in prison for giving his children Christmas presents (a bike, a camera and a walkman)
during a scheduled contact meeting. Upheld on appeal by Thorpe LJ and Butler-Sloss LJ.
Judge Goldstein, after a father filed a complaint against him, ordered all contact between that father and his children stopped for three years.
Overturned on appeal by Butler-Sloss LJ, who described the judge’s behaviour as "outrageous."
Judge Plaskow rejected a father’s request for overnight contact with his 4-year-old, and ordered court costs against him, on the grounds that
the child might require a special diet.
Judge X (name withheld by litigant) told a father who sought more than 2 hours contact with his young child per fortnight that “it may well be
that the father is being too possessive.”
Judge Agliombi warned a father who was arguing that costs should not be ordered against him because the mother was depriving their child
of a father: "If you go on like this you stand in great danger of never having staying contact with your son."
Judge X (case pending) ordered that a father, who had waited seven months for a full hearing without seeing his children, be permitted for six
months to write them no more than one card/letter every three weeks, without any direct contact.
Judge Lloyd ordered that an ordinary father be permitted to write his child once per fortnight on the condition that the letter’s contents be
reviewed by an officer of the court."