Parents, Prejudice and Penalty

26th October 2016 Family Law

Going through a divorce can often be a difficult process. It's not the administration involved in bringing a marriage to a formal close which is the issue but the emotions associated with the end of what might be a lengthy relationship which emerge in a variety of ways.

Whilst certain individuals are shocked and relatively silent, others are more vocal about the circumstances and conduct which they reckon might have caused them to part company.

Sometimes, of course, that doesn't happen until spouses have been legally separated and their joint assets divided.

When those feelings surface in individuals who are newly single but with children in common, things can sadly and all too often become complicated.

They should be able to set aside their differences for the sake of sons and daughters but that can prove easier said than done.

What may develop is a situation in which one parent is regarded by their former partners and the courts as 'implacably hostile'; that is, refusing to co-operate with arrangements designed to mitigate the upheaval of a divorce on their children.

Such behaviour is illustrated in the case of a woman in Italy who was last week fined £30,000 for influencing relations between her former husband and their son by bad-mouthing him in front of the teenage boy.

A court in Rome heard how things had deteriorated to such an extent that the boy even refused to show up for appointments with his father.

In addition to the fine, the woman was warned as to her future conduct. Continue, said the judge, and she would lose the right to have the boy live with her.

The fine is, in my opinion, all well and good. Negatively impacting on the right of either parent to enjoy normal, fruitful relationships with their children deserves to be punished. However, I wonder whether any financial penalty, regardless of its size, can undo the damage already done.

We should not imagine that these sorts of events are only the preserve of foreign courts, that they don't happen here.

Myself and my colleagues in JMW's Family team are regularly asked to intercede on behalf of parents confronted with the use of children as pawns or proxies in their former partner's lingering resentment to the way in which a relationship concluded.

Courts try to play their full part in resolving matters without requiring parents to attend repeat hearings. Unfortunately, there are parents for whom it seems no amount of judicial ticking off will ever overcome their issues.

If not an end to all such obstruction, at least the Roman rollicking handed out to the mother in this latest's Italian case may provide some reassurance.

In my experience, parents often feel powerless when trying to restore normal family relations. Knowing that that they can do something that there is somewhere to turn can be a very welcome relief.

To discuss this or any other family law issues please do not hesitate to contact the family law team.

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Jo-Anna Jellings is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchester Londonin our Family department

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