A case has been in the news recently, which highlights how the pressures of going through Children Act proceedings can make someone lose sight of what they are there for.

Rebecca Minnock hit the headlines because she went on the run with her child, after a Judge decided that the child should live with his father because the child’s mother was not cooperating with contact arrangements. When the courts could not trace her, the case was made public in the hope that it would shed some light on where the mother had gone. This led to Rebecca Minnock contacting the press, and her family members lying to the Court for her. Two members of her family were later found guilty of contempt of court.

This mother’s actions have started a debate; why shouldn’t Rebecca Minnock be able to take her child wherever she wants? It is her child after all. Why should a Judge decide that a mother cannot keep her child? Many, including Rebecca’s own family, seem to think this way. Why else would they be willing to risk imprisonment.

The reason these beliefs are seen as wrong by the courts is because the thought process behind them is that a parent owns a child, and therefore their desires are paramount. Rebecca Minnock’s language suggests she saw it as her right to decide who her child should see and be with. She was quoted as saying “it’s my son and I need to put him first over myself or anybody else”. The reality is that taking the child into hiding away from his family because she “couldn’t bear to leave my son” shows that she was not putting him first, despite what she thought. Her refusal to work with the child’s father to encourage a healthy relationship between a child and his parents shows that she could not see beyond what she wanted for her child.

Shared parenting can be difficult, especially if two people do not get on. If parents cannot come to an agreement by themselves, they must look to the Court for help. The ultimate goal of the Court is to assist parents in agreeing how to share the parenting of their child rather than to dictate. The Court will always place the child’s needs before the parents’ desires, which can sometimes lead the outcomes such as that of Rebecca Minnock.

Nevertheless, there are many parents that understand that their child comes first. The father in this case only started proceedings because he wanted to see his child, and it was only because Rebecca Minnock could not agree to this that the Judge decided to move the child’s primary home to the father. Even now, as of Wednesday this week the father has dropped his case against the mother because he wants to stop the public interest and move on. A lot of people in his position would see this as an opportunity to punish the other parent, to get retribution. This father has instead recognised that those things do not matter, and that it is the child’s interests which trump all.

If you’re going through a court case, try to remember that you are there for your child as this can be forgotten at times. If you have any further queries about this subject, then please contact Victoria Clarke on 01483 302000 or email victoria.clarke@rhw.co.uk