L (A Child): What is a family?

Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels

I rarely mention public law judgments here, as my knowledge of public law, such as it was, has long since been lost in the mists of time. However, I will make an exception today, purely because I want to repeat here the first paragraph of  His Honour Judge Sharpe’s judgment in L (A Child) (Injunctive Relief), which, whilst not saying anything that has not been said before, does remind us of a reality that everyone involved in the family justice system must understand. He said:

"Families come in all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds.  For many children ‘family life’ is not a singular concept but a reality which is made up of a network of connections between a wide variety of individuals and for different reasons.  In most cases the fact of parenthood is sufficient to create that tie, even if the actual interactions between the child and parent are marked more by absence than presence.  A combination of a shared genetic inheritance and a common history is the basis for sibling relationships which are held up on a daily basis in the Family Court as being of significant importance because of their probable longevity.  In a different way, a child’s relationships with older generations within the birth family are regarded as of importance as they enable the child to understand their history, background, culture or heritage, especially when that heritage may be geographically centred far from where the child is living.  Even where the genes are completely different and history is short, family ties abound for many children through their attachment and commitment to those whose presence in their life is despite rather than because of their own existence.  Many children living in blended families form strong attachments to a step-parent or the partner of a parent and those attachments can continue long after the collapse of the adult relationship through which it first developed.   The essence of a family relationship is not in its form or label but in the quality of the personal relationship between the child and that other person, a fact which is recognised in the law, ‘…family life… is essentially the real existence of close personal ties’: Lebbink v The Netherlands (App NO. 45582/99, judgment of 1 June 2004).”

Thank you for reading.