Minnock Case in Spotlight
The case of Ethan Minnock was in the news earlier this month, when his mother disappeared with Ethan.
It is extremely unusual for the facts of a case to be made public by the family courts, which shows how much concern the judge in this case had for Ethan’s wellbeing and safety.
The court proceedings prior to being made public, had been going on for some time. Initially, when the parents separated when Ethan was just 1 year old, and Ethan’s father, Roger Williams, had to obtain an order from the court to have contact with Ethan. By most accounts, the father had a very difficult time trying to exercise that contact with Ethan.
In January 2014 Rebecca Minnock made allegations against Mr Williams, but it wasn’t until a hearing in February 2015 that a judge decided not just that they were not true, but that it had been done to disrupt contact. At that stage, the court ordered that Ethan should spend 3 nights a week with him mum, and 4 nights a week with his dad. It was also clear that the next hearing would result in Ethan spending his time more fully with his father. Rebecca Minnock then disappeared with Ethan.
The judge in May 2015 made an order that Ethan would be better off with his father, and made that order. He also cross-examined family members to try and establish Ethan’s whereabouts. When he was unable to get any further information, he made the facts of the case public.
The judge sent out a very clear and loud message to the mother that she could not ignore court orders, which had transferred care of Ethan from her to his father. Judge Wildblood said, in one of the published judgments “No one can simply ignore that orders have been made which the mother has disobeyed; if I said otherwise it would send out a signal that the court will ignore breaches of its own orders, a signal that would be absurd and utterly wrong. Rather than act through the legal system, the mother has chosen to take matters into her own hands. No parent, be it a mother, or a father, should ever behave in that way.”
The judge was also at pains to point out that everything possible will be done to ensure that Ethan continues to have a good relationship with both of his parents.
Vicky Medd, head of Family & Matrimonial at Ridley & Hall Solicitors says, “Many clients of mine are of the view that the family courts very much favour the mother over the father. This case clearly demonstrates the courts’ commitment to trying to ensure that both children spend time with both of their parents. A study carried out at Warwick University, which was published in June this year also confirmed that the family courts (at county court level) were treating both parents fairly equally, and that applications by fathers for contact were ‘largely’ successful.”
For legal advice in relation to parental contact or any other aspect of Family law, please contact us on 01484 538421.