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Child arrangements: Can I stop my partner making another application to the family court?

Our Family Law team are vastly experienced in supporting parents undergoing disputes regarding access to their children.

If a dispute cannot be settled through negotiation or mediation, then an application can be made to the court to resolve the matter.

In this Insights article, we explore the situation where one of the parties involved in the dispute may look to misuse this application system and what can be done to prevent this.

Child Arrangements – Can I stop my partner making another application to the family court?

Sometimes a parent will make an application to court without a good reason. Once a parent becomes familiar with the court arena, they may decide to make an application to court to resolve an issue that could be settled between the parents.

The parent may also make repeated threats about going back to court, leaving the other parent, often the primary carer, living in a constant state of fear about receiving court papers.

As recognised by the courts, this behaviour often forms part of a larger pattern of coercion and control.

What can be done to stop this behaviour?

A S19(14) Order, which you may have heard referred to as a Barring Order, allows the court to stop a parent from making an application without permission.

What is the purpose of a s91(14) order?

The purpose of this type of order is to protect children and usually parents from being subject to unreasonable, unnecessary, and repeated applications to court.

Under which circumstances will the court grant s91(14) order?

The court has lots of freedom to decide when to make this type of order.

A Judge must consider all of the circumstances of the case. They must be satisfied the child, or another individual is at risk of harm if a further application is made.

Judges were initially quite apprehensive about making these orders. Judges felt making these orders should be used in exceptional circumstances.

However, these orders are a lot more common since Parliament introduced another section (91A) into the Children Act, alongside guidance in the form of a Practice Direction. It is now clear to the courts that these orders should be considered within the following situations:

  • Where there is a long history of court proceedings and a period of breathing space is required for a child or parent.
  • Where a period of time is needed for certain actions to be taken for the protection of the child or other person.
  • Where another application would cause harm to the child’s primary carer, placing the child at risk of harm indirectly.
  • Where a parent is using the court arena as a form of coercion and control.

Does there need to be several applications before an order is made?

No. For a S91(14) order to be imposed, it is clear there does not need to be countless applications.

In reality, a S91(14) order should also be considered where a child’s welfare is at risk due to the overall conduct of a parent.

Judges are becoming more and more at ease with making these types of orders where there is a risk of harm. The changes to the law have been described as transformative in protecting victims of coercion and control who often feel there is really no end in sight.

However, whilst S91(14) orders are no longer the exception, this does not mean they are the rule.  When a S91(14) order is raised, the court must strike a careful between a parents’ right to bring matters before the court and a real possibility that taking this step would place a parent at risk of harm.

How we can help

When parents or other relatives cannot agree arrangements in respect of children that they care for, or with whom they wish to see – there is often a need for legal advice and support.

If you require advice about disputes involving children, our experienced and empathetic Family Law team are available to provide expert and confidential support when you need it.

Our Partners, Lucy Simpson and Clare Sharpe, hold The Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation, highlighting their specialism in dealing with legal issues related to children, such as child protection and arrangements for children following family breakdown.

For more information, please call us on 01603 620508 or complete our online enquiry form below.

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    This article was produced on the 21st May 2024 by our Family & Children team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.