Ordering mothers to hand over the care of young children to fathers – when does this happen and why?
Newspapers and social media are currently reporting the decision of a Birmingham court to order a mother to hand over her child to his father.Ethan has lived with his mother Rebecca Minnock since the separation of his parents in February 2013, when he had just had his first birthday. The first court order was made in August 2013, that his father Roger Williams should have contact with Ethan. It is reported that he has had great difficulty in arranging contact with Ethan. By January 2014 the mother was making allegations against the father, and in February 2015 a different judge ruled that the allegations were untrue, aimed at disrupting contact. Ethan began to spent 4 nights a week with Mr Williams, and 3 with Ms Minnock.It became clear that the next hearing was likely to result in an order for him to move more fully to his father’s home. But before that could happen, Ms Minnock took Ethan and left home with him without revealing their plans.
In May 2015 (more than 2 years after the separation) the family court judge did reach the sensitive decision to order that Ethan’s welfare is better served by living with Mr Williams than his mother, whom he ruled had made false allegations and obstructed contact. So he ordered Ethan to be found and handed over, and has cross-examined members of her family to try to locate him.
It is unlikely that Ethan is going to remain hidden for long, and by her actions, Ms Minnock has made everyone more anxious and the necessary co-parenting of Ethan for the next 15 years (until he is an adult) more difficult. Proper support, from the courts, lawyers and from mental health professionals, is vital in such difficult situations, where real fears and pressures bring genuine anguish for parents and children.