The half-sister of two children in the sole care of their father has been allowed indirect contact with them, following a ruling of the Court of Appeal.
Previously, a family court hearing was told of the father’s concern that allowing his daughter to have contact with her half-sister and half-brother might result in their mother regaining contact with them. She was no longer a part of their lives and the father wanted this state of affairs to continue. However, a report from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) recommended contact on the basis of a letter every three weeks for a six-month period, followed by a review.
Evidence from a Cafcass officer laid emphasis on the importance of the children knowing about their background and heritage. The officer felt that contact with each other would enlarge such knowledge. However, the court agreed with the father and rejected the suggested programme of contact. The child’s mother appealed on her behalf.
At appeal, it was held that the judge in the lower court had given undue weight to the father’s anxiety about the risk of reintroducing the mother of the children who lived with him into the family’s life. If followed that not enough emphasis was given to the importance of giving the children access to a wider family experience via their half-sister. Furthermore, the carefully planned programme of contact drawn up by Cafcass should, it was successfully argued, minimise any inherent risk.
For these reasons, the appeal was allowed. The girl will now have contact with her half-siblings for six months under the supervision of the Cafcass officer and according to the proposed programme.
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