Coronation Street’s storyline involving the battle of the dads, David and Callum, and little Max, has been gaining momentum this week. This has culminated in Callum telling David where to stick the mediation. That’s right, the old cliché has been trotted out (again) – he’ll see him in court.
We rather suspect they haven’t really thought too much about how their respective cases will look to the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’.
On one hand we have Max’s step-father David Platt, who, to his credit, has been remarkably stable (for David) over the past year or two. He has provided a loving home for little Max, he has supported him financially. He has built up a father-like relationship with the little fella and has integrated him into the Platt household (although we are not sure whether this could necessarily be perceived as a positive). Not to forget, Max’s little sister Lilly is also a member of the Platt household.
But David, even though he knows that court proceedings could be imminent, hasn’t thought to try and build a squeaky clean profile. No, he has resorted to enlisting his soon to be step-brother Gavin (who is really Andy. Gavin is really dead, Andy is actually an impostor, but that’s another story) to planting class A drugs on Callum in an attempt to set him up.
On the other hand we have Max’s biological father Callum, who has been notable by his absence throughout little Max’s life. He was nowhere to be seen when Max was in social services care (nor was his family, come to think of it). The tales that Kylie would regale would have us believe he is the local drug taking, drug peddling scally with no sense of responsibility.
He has disrupted the family by turning up unannounced with costly and inappropriate gifts for Max. He has tried to wind David up every step of the way, and is now facilitating this in a game of ‘how’s your father’ with David’s sister Sarah-Louise.
If that wasn’t enough, he was seen this week telling Gavin-who’s-really-Andy about his time in the Big House (although no mention was made of whether he made the acquaintance of Jim McDonald in there, so it wasn’t), before threatening to rip his fingers off with a pair of pliers, chasing David across the estate and forcing him into the boot of a car.
But in Callum’s favour, his mum is a school teacher.
So who will win? There’s only one way to decide…
That’s right, ask resident legal soap pedant Rebecca Finnigan, Family Law solicitor and member of the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law panel.
I’d like to dish out a virtual smacked hand to David Platt. When this storyline first came about after Christmas, he did say that he’d been to see a solicitor and that he knew that he had no legal rights over Max. One would assume he had been advised to make an urgent court application seeking a Child Arrangements Order which would have given him parental responsibility for little Max. The Child Arrangements Order could have dealt with Max’s living arrangements as well as his contact with Callum. This is an excellent example of how some expert legal advice could potentially have saved someone months of bother. If only dozy David had listened.
If mediation has really broken down, then it is possible for an application to the court to be pursued.
It is not however, a case of Callum being the likely victor in this case simply because he shares Max’s DNA. No, the law has to be followed and the legislation which prescribes how applications concerning children are handled is the Children Act 1989.
This means that the court’s paramount concern in determining cases about children will be the welfare of the child.
The Children Act also sets out a schedule of other matters which the court must have regard to, which are:
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
But before the case even reaches the court room, background work will have been done by the court staff and by Cafcass. In this preparation, various checks will be made of outside agencies and this should flag up whether the family or parties are known to social services, to the police or whether they have any criminal convictions.
And what interesting reading the background checks will make! Weatherfield social services were, only a few years ago, a hair’s breadth away from obtaining an order to place little Max for adoption. And surely Weatherfield police must have a whole room designated to storing the files which detail the criminal records of this dubious pair.
It would be my view that (in the real world at least) whilst David’s behaviour is hardly exemplary, Callum’s cockiness is very much misplaced and he’s likely to come in for a bit of a rude awakening when his dodgy past (and present) is scrutinised by the courts.
I rather suspect that once upon a time, when legal aid was available for those in times of need and on low incomes (don’t get us started), both David and Callum would have qualified for legal aid. Make your own minds up about whether public money should be spent on these two, but from the point of view of little Max – if these two had the benefit of quality legal advice, the situation should not have got this far and could even have been finalised by now.
If you need advice about obtaining a Child Arrangements Order or any other family law issue, details of specialist solicitors can be found through Resolution or The Law Society. Our expert team at Canter Levin and Berg are as ever happy to oblige.