Voluntary care arrangement replaces interim care order application – 2021vol1#47

The Child and Family Agency (CFA) agreed to a voluntary care arrangement in respect of one infant instead of pursuing an application for an interim care order. The CFA solicitor told the court that the mother had agreed to the voluntary care arrangement for a three-month period in advance of the hearing.

The solicitor said that both the mother and a notice party were present. She said there was a question over the child’s parentage and it was the notice party’s position that he was the child’s father.

Notice party solicitor: “He would say that he is the father. He was served and named in the proceedings. The mother is also saying he is the father of her child.”

The mother’s solicitor said the mother confirmed the notice party was the father of her child. The solicitor for the notice party said that in those circumstances his client was entitled to access, despite the CFA objecting to this. The mother’s solicitor said the mother “wanted the father to have access to their child.”

The judge asked whether the notice party was consenting to the voluntary care arrangement. His solicitor said that if his consent was being sought, then it appeared it was accepted that he was the father and therefore he was entitled to access.

The judge said he was “reluctant” to deal with an access application at the moment, given the question mark over the position of the notice party. He queried whether a paternity test was being sought. The man’s solicitor said that the waiting time for the result of a paternity test was between six and eight weeks.

Judge: “That seems like an extraordinary amount of time to have to wait, surely it’s something that can be done in a matter of days?”

The CFA solicitor said they would seek an urgent paternity test, but ultimately, as the notice party was not the child’s guardian, his consent to the voluntary care arrangement was not required.

Judge: “Well unless I have the consent of both the mother and [the notice party], I think we will have to hear the full application.”

The notice party’s solicitor spoke with his client and confirmed that he was willing to consent to the voluntary care arrangement, but repeated the request for access to be dealt with. The judge said the pandemic was “causing havoc” for access arrangements in general, but that if the paternity test was dealt with “as a matter of urgency,” the notice party was entitled to make an application thereafter.

The application for the interim care order was adjourned for a three-month period.