Can Skype be a substitute for a meaningful, loving relationship between a child and a parent? This is the absurd question being asked after The President of the Family Courts, in a Supreme Court ruling, maintained that a child could be removed to Australia by their mother and their relationship with their father could be maintained satisfactorily via Skype, despite the father’s appeal that the move would destroy the children’s life with their paternal family.
Last year Sir Nicholas Wall indicated that there was a case for law in this area to be reviewed; however in this judgment Sir Nicholas appears to have made a U-turn. A compelling body of research exists, published by leading academics, psychologists and educationalists, highlighting a risk of harm to children when separated from one parent. This research is routinely ignored by the courts.
Sir Nicholas went on to state the courts will continue to follow guidance first set in the 1970s, despite this guidance being directly challenged by contemporary research.
Craig Pickering, Chief Executive of Families Need Fathers said “despite much criticism by charities, MPs and leading members of the legal profession, the Lord Justice of Appeal refuse to recognise children's needs and rights in relocation cases, and expose children to known harm. A loving and full relationship cannot be maintained via Skype. No parent can carry out their parental responsibilities simply via this technology. ”
In an event at the House of Commons in November 2010, organised by Families Need Fathers, Ann Thomas, Managing Partner of the International Family Law Group, said "How can we, in the English legal profession, have gone so wrong, have failed so many children, have inadvertently engaged in gender discrimination for almost two generations....”
Families Need Fathers disputes Sir Nicholas’s assertion in this recent judgment that relocation cases are determined on facts. Michael Robinson who heads the Relocation Campaign said “The assumptions which underpin judicial reasoning in these cases have not once been supported by expert findings in over 40 years. The court decides the outcome in relocations based on a 1970’s view of family life which has no relevance two generations later. Most concerning is the court’s refusal to consider expert evidence which contradicts its flawed and out-of-date reasoning. If the courts accept the expert research findings, they must also accept they have subjected thousands of British children to harm”.
Despite assurances that the Family Justice Review would consider the 15 academic research studies which highlight a risk of psychological, educational and emotional harm from relocation, the Review’s interim report published last week made no mention of this much criticised area of family law.
Notes to Editors;
More information is available from the following links:
The published judgement: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2011/345.html
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