The welfare of children is uppermost in the minds of family judges. In one case which illustrated the point, wealthy parents engaged in acrimonious divorce proceedings were warned in graphic terms that their personal conflict is harming their children.
Since their separation, the husband had failed to pay maintenance to his wife and children, aged 10 and 12, despite being ordered to do so by a judge. As a result, they were living in straitened circumstances. He had also failed to pay the children’s private school fees although he had continued to live in some style himself.
Both parents had formed new relationships since their split. He had kept from his children the knowledge that he had a two-year-old child by his girlfriend and the mother had started an affair with the solicitor representing her in the proceedings. They had each employed high-powered legal teams and had run up more than £500,000 in lawyers’ bills in just a few months of hostilities.
The father had twice assaulted the mother and had not seen his children for several months. For her part, she confessed that she had employed a private detective to monitor her husband’s movements. A social worker involved in the case had said that the former couple were ‘intent on destroying each other’ and that she wished she could ‘bang their heads together’.
Noting that the children were at an impressionable age, the High Court found that the children’s greatest emotional need was for a resolution of their parents’ dispute and a return to relative normality. They had suffered emotional harm as a result of their parents’ conflict.
Urging the parents to focus on their children’s best interests, the Court ordered that they should live with their mother and have regular contact with their father. Both parents were banned from removing the children from Britain without their spouse’s written consent. The Court also directed that they should attend a course designed to deal with the fall-out from separation.