Denial of Audience Unfair in Child Custody Case
When a judge failed to invite a child’s aunt and her husband, who were willing to care for him, to attend a hearing to determine his future care arrangements, a challenge was inevitable.
The child was three years old and had been taken into care by the local authority and fostered at the age of one. After an extensive assessment process, the council had determined that he should not return to live with his parents but should remain in care of the local authority.
The child’s aunt was willing to care for him and had made this known. However, she and her husband were only told of the hearing the day before it took place and could not arrange to take time off work at such short notice.
An application for an adjournment was refused on the ground that the couple had not submitted any statement prior to the hearing and had not applied to ‘intervene’ in the case. The judge therefore carried on with the hearing regardless and made a placement order in regard to the child.
The couple appealed the decision on the ground that not to hear their evidence was procedurally unfair.
The Court of Appeal considered that such a significant decision regarding the child’s future demanded that the couple should be heard before it was taken.
Accordingly, the Court ruled that the case should be heard again, but this time by a different judge, and that the couple should be allowed to present their case.
Solomons Solicitors are experts in family law, please contact us for a free initial consultation with our experienced family Solicitor Jacqui Forrest.