Sometimes, the courts have to consider the effect on children of allowing the reintroduction of contact with a parent with whom they have had no relationship for some time.
In a recent case, this issue came up in the context of an application for an indirect contact order, which was to allow a child to have contact with her half-brother and half-sister.
The child was cared for by her mother: her half-brother and sister were cared for by her father. The mother of the children who lived with the father had ceased to have any involvement with them. Their father wanted to ensure that the children’s mother did not once again become a feature in their lives, which he feared would occur if he allowed his child by his former wife access to them because the two women were in contact with one another.
A Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) officer recommended that the indirect contact order should be made as it was important for the children to know about their background: having contact with their siblings would assist this. The father opposed the application.
The court agreed with the father and rejected the suggested programme of contact. The child’s mother appealed.
On appeal, the court considered that the judge had given too much weight to the father’s concerns. In such cases, an appropriate balance must be struck between the potential benefits to the children and the risks involved and this was achieved by the recommendations put forward in the CAFCASS officer’s proposal.