The case of KSJ v WRW  EWCA Civ 1207 was reported yesterday on Bailli. It is an extremely sad tale of two warring parents who are completely unable to resolve matters between themselves, due to 'their mutual distrust and dislike of each other' - the words of Macur J at an earlier hearing. Apparently, the case has dragged on since April 2000, during which time almost 100 orders have been made, occupying the time of 11 judges. At a hearing as long ago as August 2004 Bennett J, clearly exasperated, concluded his judgment with these words: "Finally, I hope that this hearing really will represent the final round of hostilities. The mother and the father have a lovely daughter who brings them much happiness and to whom they are both devoted. If I may put it colloquially and bluntly: for her sake, give her a break." Unfortunately, his words fell on deaf ears, and the litigation has continued unabated.
This particular hearing took place in the Court of Appeal, where Lord Justice Wall considered no less than four different applications for leave to appeal, against four different orders, by the mother. I do not propose to go through the details of the applications and the decision (I'm not sure that there is any new law in there), save to say that it involved a Schedule 1 Children Act matter and that all four applications were dismissed. The lesson that is to be learnt from this case, however, is surely that we as lawyers must do everything in our power to bring parents together, and avoid this kind of intractable litigation.
That is not to say that I am criticising the mother's legal team (who acted pro bono). They clearly put every effort into the case, including preparing a skeleton argument that ran to 134 paragraphs over 48 pages. However, it does concern me that sometimes the lawyers can be complicit in perpetuating disputes. We may act for one of the parents, but we all also owe a duty to any children involved. For their sake, we must constantly remind our clients of the damage that their actions are doing to their children, and must not miss any opportunity to compromise.
I'm afraid that in this case, the mother continues to refuse to listen to reason. According to this BBC report (thanks, Current Awareness), she now intends to take the case to the European Court.