Problem with service of documents on mother in UK – 2018vol1#15

An extension of an interim care order was granted in a Dublin District Court for an infant whose mother was living in the UK and who did not have the capacity to care for him. The social work team had had great difficulty in the service of documents of the interim care order extension court date to the mother, as there was a lacuna in the law in serving such documents. An affidavit of service from the CFA could not be provided to the court.

The solicitor for the CFA told the court that a letter had been sent to the respondent mother in early July from the Irish social worker via the Central Authority in Ireland to the Central Authority in England. Receipt of this letter by the UK Central Authority was acknowledged two weeks’ later. However there was no obligation on the serving party overseas to come back and confirm the letter had subsequently been served to the respondent.

Furthermore, given that there were only 28 days between the interim care order extensions, this did not provide the authorities with very much time to carry out the entire process of service, said the solicitor for the CFA.

The infant was the mother’s third child, however she had had another baby in the UK and a referral had been made to the social services there. Her social worker described her as an incredibly vulnerable woman with a cognitive disability. He told the court that the mother had contacted the social work department prior to the birth of her third child requesting that her own mother would also look after the infant. However as her mother already had her first two children in her care (who had behavioural difficulties) she did not feel she was in a position to provide care for the infant as well.

The infant had complex health needs but he had an incredibly committed foster carer who juggled a huge variety of medical appointments for him. The social worker had tried in vain to phone the mother in the UK, a phone number that had worked once in June was no longer in use. The maternal grandmother had had some contact through Facebook chat with her daughter but the hearing had not been mentioned.

The infant’s father had not been identified, a DNA test had ruled out one potential father, he had named another man as the putative father but that man had refused to engage in DNA testing and denied he was the father of the child. The social worker believed he had exhausted every avenue in trying to identify the child’s paternity.

The GAL told the court that she had spoken to the mother at the start of June and had then sent the mother a registered letter but it had been returned. She was no longer able to contact the mother by phone.

The solicitor for the CFA told the court that he had instructions to proceed with the full care order hearing in mid-September and he would discuss service to the mother at the next extension of the interim care order.