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Judge ‘was wrong’ to separate eight-year-old boy from his mother

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a judge was wrong to decide that an eight-year-old boy would be better off living with his paternal grandparents than with his natural mother.

The court heard that the boy had continued living with his mother following her divorce from the father. She had subsequently remarried and had another son.

The father of the eight-year-old then began proceedings seeking contact and residence orders. A guardian was appointed for the boy and a child psychologist was asked to compile a report.

One of the main features in the case was that the father and mother were very hostile to each other. The psychologist believed that if the boy was allowed to become embroiled in this parental conflict, there was a strong risk that it would increase his own negative and aggressive behaviour. His parents would cause him harm if they did not reach a constructive agreement.

The guardian then recommended that the boy should live with his paternal grandparents. The judge at the original hearing accepted this recommendation and made a residence order to that effect.

However, that order has now been set aside by the Court of Appeal.

It held that the judge at the original hearing had failed to take into account the basic principle that children have a right to be brought up by their parents unless there were over-riding reasons why that would be detrimental to them.

The judge was right to take the view that the boy needed to be taken out of the arena of conflict involving his parents, but he had given this factor undue weight when making his decision. He had also lost sight of the fact that removing the boy from his mother’s care would also deprive him of family life with his half-brother.

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