The Father v The Mother [2023] EWHC 1454

Gemma Kelly, appeared on behalf of the Applicant father as a Special Advocate in closed proceedings in this private law children matter. 

The case primarily concerned the Mother’s application for internal relocation from Nottingham to Rugby. The Father opposed the move and sought a 50/50 shared “lives with” order.  

Unusually, a special advocate was appointed for the Father following the Mother’s application for a closed material procedure (linked to her employment with the MoD) at the original final hearing and the matter was reallocated to High Court level.  The result was that at the final hearing that took place before Lieven J, there were both open and closed parts to the hearing.  The judgment notes:

I can well understand the F's feeling of frustration and potential unfairness in being excluded from hearing parts of the evidence. That was unavoidable in the circumstances, but I want to assure him that his interests were fully protected, both by Ms Kelly and the Court.

The Court confirmed that the leading case on internal relocation continues to be Re C (Internal Relocation) [2015] EWCA Civ 1305 [51-54]. It was noted that the closed aspect of this case did not detract from what was a fairly standard relocation issue. 

The judgment encouraged those involved in private law proceedings to keep firmly in mind the Court of Appeal case K v K [2022] EWCA Civ 468:

The Court is not there to consider what went wrong in the parent's relationship (limited or extensive) in the past, save strictly to the degree it impacts on the decision concerning the child in the future. Equally, cross-examination about past failings (by both parents) is very unlikely to aid better future relations in the best interests of the child. If the family justice system is to have the slightest chance of dealing with cases in a timely and productive manner and to assist families in decision making concerning their children, then we all have to focus on the real issues and try to adopt a problem solving approach rather than a largely adversarial one.

The Court rejected the Cafcass’ recommendations, which favoured the Father’s proposals, and permitted mother to relocate with the child.  

Full Judgment

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