Maria was instructed by Ciara Pugh and Vanessa Friend, and assisted at court by Pooja Patel of Stowe Family Law (London office). Maria represented the respondent mother.
The parties were in a same sex relationship and the subject child was the respondent mother’s biological child. The applicant mother had been afforded parental responsibility, by consent, in earlier proceedings. The child at the date of final hearing was a teenager. The child arrangements in place prior to the breakdown of the relationship between the child and respondent mother were unusual but worked for this modern family. There had been an incident leading to the child moving from living with the respondent mother to living with the applicant mother. The level of conflict between the parties was high and multi-faceted, communications were almost non-existent.
The applicant mother relied heavily on the wishes and feelings of the child. She deferred throughout the proceedings and in cross-examination to being led by the child’s views, almost exclusively. The respondent mother was of the opinion that the applicant mother was alienating the child from the respondent mother and her wider family. Evidence explored a wide range of complex behaviours from both parties and the impact of the same upon the child.
The judgment is a timely reminder of how the court is likely to deal with views of older children; the need for parents at times to make difficult parenting decisions; and the challenges of raising and proving allegations of alienation. Maria was praised in the judgment for the clear and careful way in which she put her client’s case.
The judge, at the suggestion of Maria, wrote a ‘Dear Sam’ letter to the child at the conclusion of the case. See, Re A : Letter to a Young Person  EWFC 48.
The judgment is available here.