A mother who failed to win permission to move overseas with her children due to the damaging impact on their relationship with their natural father has failed to convince the Court of Appeal that a family judge was biased against her. Arguments that the judge took against her after she took her baby into court were rejected.
The mother had sought permission to relocate with her new husband and two children, aged six and eight, to an African country. However, her bid to start a new life abroad was blocked by a family judge who said that, whilst the move sounded like an ‘exciting adventure’, the impact on the children’s relationship with their father meant that it would not be in their best interests.
The mother argued on appeal that she did not receive a fair hearing, having ‘got off to a bad start’ with the judge by taking into court her baby who was still being breast-fed. The judge had sent a message via the court usher instructing the mother that she could not bring the infant into the courtroom but she argued that she had no other option as there was no alternative care available for the child who had never previously been separated from her for more than an hour.
The judge went on to find that that the mother was the ‘driving force’ behind the plan to move abroad and that it was a ‘lifestyle choice’. In the light of the upheaval that the children had already endured due to the break-up of their parents’ relationship, the judge ruled that the move could be ’emotionally and psychologically damaging’ to them.
Refusing the mother permission to appeal, Lord Justice Thorpe said: “I am very sorry for this couple because I think another judge, on another day, or in another court, might well have granted this application. It may be that, looking at the case without having heard any oral evidence, I would say that that was a firm probability. But the responsibility for these cases rests with the judge who hears the oral evidence.
“This court has to be on its guard against granting permission to appeal simply because an individual judge might have reached a different conclusion. I simply cannot see sufficient prospects of this court interfering with the carefully and fully-reasoned conclusion of the family judge.”