When looking at where children should be placed at the conclusion of care proceedings there are a number of factors that are considered; such as the childrens wishes and feelings, any potential risk of harm to the children.

With there being more families that consist of half and step siblings this adds a further consideration for the court. In Leicestershire County Council v AB and Others [208] EWFC 58 the Court had to consider the best placement for two half siblings. The children were aged 4 and 3.

The Courts made a Lancashire finding. This is where the Judge cannot determine who caused the harm to the child from the pool of people that could have been responsible. On the evidence the Judge cannot decide who was more likely to have caused the harm than the others.

Lancashire findings do not necessarily mean that a person will definitely be ruled out of caring for a future child, it will be dependent on the facts of each specific case.

In this case the Lancashire finding was that either the Mother (M) or her partner (P) had caused the injuries to the 4 year old child (A). Twice in February 2018 A was admitted to hospital with various bruised and marks. The Doctors treating A concluded in their professional opinion the injuries were non-accidental. This means they were caused by someone opposed to accidentally like grabbing you child’s arm when they want to run into the road or if the have bruised from falling over.

M was represented by the official solicitor, she denied causing the injuries and did not seek the return of the children to her care.

Father to the eldest child A (Father 1) sought to care for A, however he did not know he was the childs father until May 2018 and although contacted had started and was going well the relationship was in its infancy. The social worker and the Guardian supported this.

Father to the youngest child B (Father 2) sought to care for both children. Professionals felt he should care for his own child.

Outcome

The Judge found then analysis that A’s needs would not be met in the care of Father 2 as there would be 4 children in the household was flawed. The professionals also said the child had a right to be placed with its Fathers care. The Judge confirmed there is no such right.

The Judge also felt there were significant flaws in the analysis of the impact of separating the children.

The Judge was very impressed Father 2’s evidence and his partner. There were clear they would co-operate with Father 1 and promote contact wherever the children lived.

The Judge felt the Guardians evidence was also flawed and he made it clear the recommendation to separate the children was wrong. During the proceedings the Guardian sought for there to be a psychological assessment of the children as there was a gap in the evidence. This application was refused by the Judge and he attached no weight to the Guardian’s evidence.

The Judge ruled that the children A and B should live together with Father 2 as any risk that did exist outweighs the impact of separation on the children. As such a child arrangements order was made to Father 2.

If you are involved in care proceedings and require advice please do not hesitate to contact our Care team in Lincoln, 01522 561020 or any of our other offices.

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