Consensus reached on a venue for mother’s access visits with three children – 2020vol2#43

A judge in a rural town carried out a review of a supervision order for three children of primary school ages, (A, B and C), where the issue of primary concern was the difficulty concerning access visits for the children’s mother, who was not living with the children. While all three children had the same mother, each child had a different father, and each child was living with her own father.

The mother was present in court and was represented. Each of the three fathers was present and was represented. The judge listened to the mother’s concerns about arranging access visits. Alternative solutions were explored and it was decided that future access visits would take place in the home of one of the children’s fathers.

The lawyer for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) told the court that a supervision order, which had been made some months earlier, was due to expire after two months. The CFA lawyer explained that each of the children had left the family home and each was living with her own father. The children’s mother was living in the family home but she had problems with alcohol abuse, which the CFA said had not been fully addressed by the mother.

The mother’s lawyer reported that the mother had always been very open about her problems, was attending counselling and was taking it very seriously. The children’s social worker said that an assessment of the mother had been carried out and that the subsequent therapeutic intervention with the mother would begin in two months’ time and would take about 24 weeks.

The mother’s lawyer told the judge that the children’s mother was consenting to the supervision order, but that she was in a very difficult position trying to negotiate access times with the three fathers. The social worker agreed that this had been very difficult and that she had tried to help the mother with focused communication texts with the fathers. At this point, the children’s mother spoke up to the judge, saying that two of the fathers “rarely answered their phones and they ignored my text messages”. The mother said that

the fathers were not co-operating with her and that she had printouts of her texts with them to prove this.

The social worker outlined that one of the conditions attaching to the supervision order was that access by the children’s mother was not to take place in the mother’s home and that the access visits were always to be supervised by one of the children’s fathers. The use of a neutral venue for access was explored but the Covid-19 restrictions meant that this was no longer an option.

Judge: “We cannot change the past. We have to go forward. Can we make a schedule going forward?”

The mother’s lawyer said it was very difficult when the access was not taking place in the mother’s home and the judge again advised all parties to “think of the future at this stage”. The social worker said that the core issue of the mother’s alcohol problem had not been addressed satisfactorily and reported that photographs of the mother drinking alcohol had been posted on a social media platform, which had been seen by the children and caused great upset to them. The social worker also described an incident during access where a man, who sounded very drunk, had made a phone-call to the eldest child’s phone and the mother had told the child that she should not tell either her father or her social worker about it.

The lawyer for A’s father told the judge that it was very important to note that all three of the children’s fathers had insisted that access should not take place in the children’s mother’s home due to their concerns around child protection issues. The lawyer for B’s father told the judge that B’s father had now offered his home as a potential venue for access to take place for the mother with all three children, which would be supervised by one of the children’s fathers.

Judge: “There seems to be consensus emerging as regards the location?”

Mother: “I am quite happy to travel anywhere.”

The lawyer for the father of C told the judge that C’s father was not yet a guardian and that he would be applying for guardianship. The lawyer for A’s father suggested that access could take place each Sunday from 2 to 5 pm.

The judge was satisfied with the progress made by all parties in court regarding the mother’s difficulties with access arrangements. The offer of the use of one of the children’s father’s home was a good temporary solution. The supervision order was set to continue under those conditions until the conclusion of the order after two months.

Six-month extension of care order granted to facilitate the rebuilding of a relationship between child and father where allegations made by the child were retracted

Later in the same court the judge granted a six-month extension of a care order for a child of primary school age, A, in order to facilitate the child and his father rebuilding their relationship. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse made by A against his father had been fully retracted and the father said he intended to apply for sole custody of A. The child’s mother, who had issues with her own mental health and abuse of medications, had ceased engagement with the social work department and had discontinued access visits.

The lawyer for the Child and Family Agency, (CFA), told the court that A had been in care for the previous six months. He had been living with his mother following allegations of physical and sexual abuse he had made against his father. Subsequently an emergency care order was made for the child due to concerns about his mother’s mental health difficulties and her abuse of medications. An interim care order was made for him for six months. His social worker reported that A had settled well in care. A’s mother had access visits with him initially but later ceased the visits due to her own abuse of medications. Access between the boy and his father was reported as going well.

The lawyer for the CFA told the judge that A’s father had consented to the extension of the care order and that his mother was no longer engaging with the social work department. The social worker reported that there had been some indications that A’s mother was no longer living at home. The father’s lawyer told the judge that his client had always maintained his innocence of the allegations made against him by A and that all these allegations had now been retracted. She advised the court that the father wished to apply for sole guardianship of the boy.

The judge said that the next six months would bring A to the end of his current school year and the father’s lawyer asked that the care order be extended until the child finished the school year. The judge made an order granting the six-month extension of the care order and giving the parties liberty to come back to court during the six months if necessary.