If there’s one thing we are agreed on at Sud’s Law, it’s that with all the weddings, funerals and court appearances, the male residents of Weatherfield certainly get their money’s worth from their suits.
Last night saw Coronation Street’s Callum and David arrive at the family court (which we assumed to be in Weatherfield, although we did catch a sneaky glimpse of the Arndale Centre out of the court corridor window). The battle of the dads stepped up a gear and the hapless duo finally did what they’d been threatening to do for months, and made an application to the court for an order concerning Callum’s biological son and David’s step-son, Max. Never has court vending machine coffee been supped in such a menacing manner as when Callum glared at David and told him he’d take his chances in court.
There were dirty looks, scathing comments, and a caustic commentary by Callum’s lawyer of David’s less than squeaky clean past. David had to be led from the court room by his lawyer before he let rip on Callum. This culminated in the court making an order that Max should remain in David’s care in the interim, that Max should have two overnight contacts with his biological father Callum each week, and that Cafcass should prepare a full report ready for the next hearing.
Legal fact or legal fiction? There’s only one person to ask in such situations – our resident family law solicitor and member of the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law panel and Resolution, not to mention soap-geek extraordinaire, Rebecca Finnigan.
At long last Callum and David have done the right thing and sought a proper legal remedy to their ongoing and intractable dispute over their beloved little Max. It’s taken over 6 months, but they did the right thing in the end.
Before a case reaches the court room, it is usual for initial welfare checks to be carried out by Cafcass and for these to be with the judge ready for the hearing. Therefore the court should already be well aware of all of David and Callum’s chequered past, their (innumerable) brushes with the law, Callum’s time in the nick, and Max’s time in foster care. The aforementioned caustic commentary spieled by Callum’s lawyer about David’s dodgy past should not have come as a surprise, and likely the court was already well aware of it before the parties even set foot in the room.
The outcome was a mixed bag. Although the judge did not specify the exact name of the court order she was making, we assume it was an interim Child Arrangements Order (CAO). Child Arrangements Orders have quite recently been introduced to replace the old Contact Orders (the type of contact a child should have with a named individual) and Residence Orders (who a child should live with). A CAO can specify both living and contact arrangements, and in this case the order was made on an interim basis. An interim court order is one which will take effect whilst court proceedings are ongoing and pending a final determination by the court.
The interim CAO made by the court specified that Max should live with David whilst the court proceedings were ongoing. This seems a perfectly sensible decision, and one we have been suggesting would be the outcome since this whole business kicked off at Christmas when Kylie departed. However, an interim order does not predict the outcome of the case and does not mean that the final order will reflect these interim living arrangements.
The interim CAO also states that Max should have overnight contact with his biological father Callum on two occasions per week. This was surprising. Court proceedings concerning children are not about what the parents demand, but about achieving an outcome which is in the best interests of the child in question.
In fact the Children Act 1989 states that the welfare of the child should be the court’s paramount consideration. The court should make sure that the contact arrangements for a child are pitched at a level which will meet the child’s best interests and are progressed at an appropriate level. Until the court hearing, Max was seeing Callum each week on an ad hoc basis, and there was certainly no mention of overnight contact. It is therefore a little unusual that contact would be progressed from this, to two overnight stays per week immediately. Usually the court would favour a more gradual increase in contact so that the child could become accustomed to increased periods of time in the care of that parent, before progressing to overnight contact. It strikes me as a little bit odd that David’s solicitor did not make any submissions to the court about the length of contact before the court ordered it.
Finally, the court directed that Cafcass should prepare a full report on the case. I would certainly agree that this is a case where a full Cafcass report is desirable. But what will Cafcass do? Cafcass will carry out detailed background checks on both parties, checking their criminal records (which should be a monumental task in itself, given the reams and reams of files which Weatherfield police are likely to have on this pair!) and checking social services records. Cafcass may also wish to speak to Max to determine his wishes and feelings, and to observe his contact with daddy David and daddy Callum.
Callum and David can expect Cafcass to pay a visit to each of them, and perhaps to speak to members of their household, and we wish them the very best of luck when it comes to speaking to the Platt household, what with Gail ‘the black widow’ Platt, David’s sister Sarah-Lou the gym-slip-mother, and his particularly gobby niece Bethany. Will Cafcass be bowled over by Callum’s mother the school teacher? Only time will tell.
A little birdie tells us that Kylie is due to make a return to The Street imminently. No doubt this will ruffle a few feathers and have a bearing on the direction which this case is going.
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.