(Family Division; HHJ Bond; 6 November 2009)
In a case in which the mother was extremely hostile to contact, and in which the 11 year old child was becoming increasingly hostile to the father as a result of the mother's approach, the court granted a residence order to the father and his wife, and made a contact order in the mother's favour, which was the result favoured both by the guardian and the expert psychiatrist. If the court were to act upon the child's expressed wishes, contact with the father would cease; although the court would listen to and take account of the child's views, they were not determinative. The child had made up his mind that he did not want to see the father when he was too young to make a considered decision. The father was able to meet the child's emotional needs, whereas the mother was unable to meet the child's emotional need for a relationship with the father. The child had already suffered significant emotional harm because of the mother's stance. While the move to the father's home carried with it a risk of harm, the greater risk lay in remaining with the mother, and losing touch with the father. A 'critical friend' invited by the guardian to assist the family had overstepped his role in asking the child direct questions about his relationship with the father.