In a ruling that underlines that the wishes and feelings of children can be decisive in even the most intractable family cases, a father has won a seven-year battle to have more contact with his daughter.
The ‘doggedly persistent’ father had separated from the girl’s mother before their daughter was born but was so devoted to her that he kept his home stocked with neatly arranged dolls and had her name engraved above his fireplace. The first six years of her life were marked by ceaseless litigation between the parents, resulting in more than 40 family court hearings.
The father saw his daughter weekly during her early years but, in 2006, a family court restricted his contact with her to three times per year in the light of concerns expressed by social workers and psychologists that his preoccupation with her and his constant conflict with her mother could cause her emotional harm. The father’s applications to extend contact in the seven years since then had all failed.
Now, however, a family judge has increased the contact between father and daughter to eight times per year after being told that the 13-year-old loved and idolised her father and had expressed a wish to see him more often. Despite the mother’s plea that she was completely exhausted by the father’s relentless determination to get his own way, the judge found that the ‘intelligent and articulate’ teenager’s views weighed heavily in the balance.
Although the judge could discern little change in the father’s attitude over the years, he did not doubt the sincerity and strength of his love for his daughter and his wish to play a bigger part in her life. He directed that contact sessions should take place around school holidays, the girl’s birthday and Christmas. She will also be given a dedicated mobile phone which she can use to telephone and text her father.