After the not-guilty verdict in the case of R v Titchener, Rob reminded Helen that “as long as we have a child together, you’ll never be rid of me.” Although Rob is wrong about many things, he is right that he and Helen remain connected by virtue of their son.
When relationships break down and children are involved, couples sometimes have to rely on the Family Court to help them make suitable arrangements for the children they share. This article explains some of the legal issues in the family court that are raised by the Archer v Titchener case. In addition to being Archers fans, we are also family law barristers who specialise in the law relating to children. We deal with similar cases to Rob’s and Helen’s every day.
To start with, it is important to say that most separating couples are able to agree arrangements for their children either between themselves or through mediation, both of which offer more flexible solutions than court orders. Mediation is a good option when couples are still able to be in the same room with each other but – in a situation where there has been a history of domestic violence and also criminal proceedings where one person in the couple has injured the other – sometimes mediation is not appropriate.
The family court in this case considered issues that fall under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. In particular, it decided with whom Henry and Jack should live, and how much time they should spend with the non-residential parent. In all family law cases, the welfare of the child is the court’s paramount consideration. Although Helen and Rob’s relationship has ended in spectacular fashion, the family court will aim to find an arrangement that promotes Henry’s and Jack’s best interests.
Initially, during Helen’s imprisonment, an application was made by Pat and Tony, Henry’s maternal grandparents, to the family court for an order that Henry should live with them. They were unsuccessful in their application because it was held to be in Henry’s best interests to live with the only other person who had parental responsibility for him. The order in relation to Henry was granted on an interim basis, in other words as a kind of holding position until a final order is made. The issue for the family court was (a) whether Henry should continue to live with Rob or whether he should live with Helen; (b) regardless of where he lives, how much time should he spend with the other parent; (c) where should Jack live and how much time should he spend with the other parent. Rob may have also tried to raise the issue of Jack’s name.
This storyline touches on a number of the often complicated issues family courts and lawyers grapple with daily, and below we explore:
- Henry’s status and Rob’s relationship to him (and what might have happened if Ian had been Henry’s father by artificial insemination)
- The approach of a family court where one parent has been acquitted of a serious crime
- The relevance of domestic abuse
- Will Rob be able to change Jack’s name to Gideon Titchener?
- What might the future hold?
More widely we advise on the whole range of family matters, including:
- Alternative families – from civil partnerships to surrogacy to paternity rights
- Children – all aspects of private and public law children work
- Court of Protection
- International and abduction
- Matrimonial – from pre-nups to financial remedies
If you would like assistance in these areas please contact us.