(Family Division, Theis J, 13 February 2013)
The parents' of four children, aged between 6 and 2, had a volatile relationship and the father had been convicted of domestic violence offences against the mother. The father sought direct or indirect contact with the children and a further risk assessment if the court determined that it did not have sufficient information to make a decision. The mother supported by Cafcass opposed contact and sought permission to change the name of the children.
The mother had been assisted by the police and other agencies to obtain secure accommodation at a location unknown to the father and a MAPPA assessment found the mother was justified in her fears.
Dismissing the father's application for contact. The welfare of the children was the paramount concern. They were too young to express their views and their welfare needs were for the security and stability of the care they were receiving from their mother. The mother's fear was genuine based on her experiences with the father. The father's attitude and behaviour underpinned the risk of future harm to the children particularly so as the father had no understanding of the impact upon the mother of the offences and the power relationship.
Applying FPR 25.1 the court did not reasonably require a risk assessment by a consultant psychiatrist in order to resolve the proceedings. There was little real evidence of a change of attitude by the father and any assessment would miss the point as it would not take into account the mother's perception, fear, her emotional state and the impact of that on the children.
The mother's application to change the children's names was granted. The safety aspect from the children's point of view was critical. Theirs was not a common name and given the father's expressed intentions of discovering where they lived it would be detrimental if their names were not changed.