Our partner Anthony Gold Solicitors are experienced in dealing with all aspects of family breakdown, including arrangements for children on separation, and can offer child-inclusive mediation. They share their thoughts on the recent case on child arrangements and prioritising children’s welfare.
Prioritising children’s welfare ‘to the letter’
This year’s theme for Children’s Mental Health Week was ‘Let’s Connect’ with emphasis on just how important having a connection with family, and others, is for a child’s mental health and wellbeing.
This is particularly topical following the recent release of a letter written by a Judge (now known as ‘Judge John’) to the children in a case regarding a child arrangements order and proposed internal relocation, Ms D v Mr D (2022) EWFC 164.
This case concerned brothers, aged 8 and 11. A child arrangements order had been in place since 2018 where they divided their time between their parents equally in London, spending alternate weeks during term time and half the school holidays with each parent. The matter returned to court after the father sought an order that the children live with him in London and spend time with the mother, and the mother sought an order that the children relocate to live with her in Somerset and spend time with the father every other weekend and during school holidays.
The mothers application to relocate was refused, with an order that the existing arrangements continue in the best interests of the children. The reasons included concern that the mother did not fully recognise how the father enriched the lives of the children and doubt as to whether the mother would sustain and nurture their relationship with their father following a move to Somerset.
Most poignantly, the Judge went on to write a letter directly to the children to explain his decision. This letter has gone viral and been praised for the use of clear relatable language, with the children’s best interests at the forefront. The full letter is worth a read, but the extracts below illustrate the importance of maintaining family connections and reducing parental conflict:
‘I hope you both understand that I have made the decision and not your Mum or your Dad. Judges sometimes have to make decisions when parents cannot agree.’
‘I have made this decision after considering who you both are….. I have decided you need each other – I think you are good brothers to each other. I also think you need to spend time with your Mum and your Dad……I was worried your Dad might not have a full and proper role in your lives if you lived in Somerset’
‘I have asked your Mum and Dad to behave a bit better. I know you both find the arguing that happens between them difficult. Although it is a naughty word, you are right to describe it to Shelley as ‘crap’. I have told your parents to stop ‘the crap’.
Research shows that witnessing high levels of parental conflict before during and after separation has a long term impact on a child’s welfare. It can lead to anxiety, depression, academic failure, substance abuse, criminality, peer problems and brain development issues, and this pattern of conflict can be passed on to the next generation. Whereas reducing parental conflict is associated with improved mental health, behaviour, school outcomes and long-term relationships. 
It is clear that reducing parental conflict and focusing on the best interests of the children is the single most important thing a parent can do when separating.
Anthony Gold are experienced in dealing with all aspects of family breakdown, including arrangements for children on separation, and can offer child-inclusive mediation. If you think you may require legal assistance a member of our family team can advise you in more detail and agree the best course of action for you and your family.
 Family Solutions Group – Inter-parental conflict and family separation, Professor Gordon Harold (University of Cambridge)
Anthony Gold Solicitors are offering Clapham Mums a free 20 minute consultation.