Margaret Styles in Warwickshire County Council v The Mother & Ors [2023] EWHC 399 (Fam)

7th Mar 2024 | Cases

Margaret Styles, instructed by Jackson West, appeared for the First Respondent Mother in Warwickshire County Council v The Mother & Ors [2023] EWHC 399 (Fam) a final hearing of care proceedings. This alienation case is now being cited as a leading judgment on the dangers of over radical action by the courts in such cases. This case concerned two girls, Z aged 13 and X aged 11. They were both made subjects of Interim Care Orders on 19 May 2022 on the grounds of risk of psychological harm. The underlying issue was parental alienation. The parents had separated in December 2016. There were various issues with contact and numerous applications and hearings, which culminated in a fact-finding hearing in February 2022. The Judge in those proceedings made no findings against the Father but made findings of parental alienation against the Mother. The Judge ordered a 90 day “Reunification Plan”, by which the children were to move to live with Father, together with an Independent Social Worker who stayed in the Father’s property. The Plan went extremely badly with the children smashing property in the Father’s home, absconding and subsequently being moved to foster care with police involvement. Z remained in foster care whilst X was returned to her Father’s care. Z was eventually returned to her Mother’s care while X continued to live with her Father and had limited contact with her Mother and sister. X always maintained that she wanted to return to live with her Mother. X eventually absconded and refused to return to her Father. The local authority allowed X to stay with her Mother’s partner’s parents for the weekend but X remained there and refused to return to her Father or have any further contact with him. The court found that although doubtless everyone involved had acted with the best of intentions, the children had been served badly by the family justice system. The court found that some of the earlier criticism of the Mother’s conduct was not merely unfair, it bordered on ‘inhumane’ and had resulted in the Mother and children being denied any contact with each other for five months. At this final hearing the court ordered that Z should remain with her Mother and X be made subject to a Care Order. Eventually rehabilitation of both children to their mother’s  care was achieved, notwithstanding and in face of expert opposition.

This case was recently the subject of a blog post  by

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