Barring orders in Children Act proceedings
All too often in children matters, there is a pattern of continual applications on the part of one parent against the primary carer, which are very obviously vexatious and designed to direct that parent’s ill feeling toward the other. What they do not realise is that these actions can cause the child and the primary carer emotional and financial harm by creating protracted litigation.
The courts have, thankfully, recognised that some parents have a history of such vexatious applications and now have the ability to exercise their discretion in imposing a barring order which effectively prevents the applicant parent from this continuous cycle of litigation. It must be noted that such orders are not an absolute bar to a further application, but rather imposes the requirement on the applicant to apply for leave (permission) of the court to bring about a further application, by ‘filtering’ such applications.
In the absence of a time constraint contained within the barring order, the order will usually last until a child is 16 years old. However, in exceptional circumstances, the court may decide to make such an order to end on the child’s 18th birthday. This precedent was set in a case where a parent had shown dogged determination to repeatedly appeal and make further applications when she could not grasp or accept that a care order had been made.
So, the question remains … is such a restrictive order a ‘heavy-handed’ approach to conclude litigation, or is it an underused tool? Opposing parents will have their own opinion.
Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.