High Court Prioritizes Child Welfare in Complex Family Law Case Amid Domestic Abuse Allegations

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3170 (Fam)
Judgment on


The case of Ms X v Mr Y in the High Court of Justice, Family Division, [2023] EWHC 3170 (Fam), provides a detailed illustration of the application of various legal principles in a complex family law matter that involves issues of parental responsibility, contact, and the welfare of children in the context of domestic abuse. The judgment by Mrs Justice Lieven sheds light on the court’s handling of private law proceedings, especially when one party exhibits coercive and controlling behavior that impacts the welfare of children.

Key Facts

The case involves the application by Ms X for multiple orders concerning her twin girls, of whom Mr Y, currently incarcerated, is the father. The historical context is steeped in allegations of domestic abuse, including rape and coercive behavior, culminating in Mr Y’s conviction. Of particular note is the fact that Mr Y had not seen the children since they were two years old, and legal proceedings surrounding the family had been extensive.

Ms X applied for orders including that the children live with her, have no contact with Mr Y, remove Mr Y’s parental responsibility, and impose Prohibited Steps and Section 91(14) orders. Mr Y did not attend the final hearing due to “illness,” hence the court considered whether to adjourn the proceedings in light of his absence.

Several legal principles were applied in this judgment:

  1. Best Interests of the Child: Guided by the welfare checklist in the Children Act 1989, the court considered the best interests of the children as its paramount concern (s.1).

  2. Parental Responsibility: The court analyzed whether it was appropriate to terminate parental responsibility as outlined in The Red Book 2022 and past judgments such as Re P (Terminating Parental Responsibility) [1995] 1 FLR 1048 and D v E (Termination of Parental Responsibility) [2021] EWFC 37.

  3. Involvement of Both Parents: The presumption that it is generally in a child’s interests for both parents to be involved in their lives (Children Act 1989, s.1 (2A)) was considered against the backdrop of significant evidence of harm posed by Mr Y.

  4. Article 8 Rights: The court considered the Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rights to family life of both the children and Mr Y, concluding that the children’s rights prevailed in this situation.

  5. Case Management and Proportionality: Citing “The Road Ahead” by the President of the Family Division and applying Family Procedure Rules 2010, Rule 22.1, the court engaged in case management to ensure a fair trial within a proportionate timeframe, rejecting unnecessary adjournments or extensions.

  6. Section 91(14) Orders: The court approached the application for a s.91(14) order, to prevent Mr Y from making further applications without court permission, with caution, considering the precedent set by Re A (Supervised Contact) (s.91(14)) [2021] EWCA Civ 1749.


The court decided not to adjourn despite Mr Y’s non-attendance, citing the lengthy duration of the proceedings and the need to avoid further delay impacting the children and Ms X. Mrs Justice Lieven ordered the following:

  • The children live with Ms X with no contact with Mr Y
  • Termination of Mr Y’s parental responsibility
  • Maintenance of Prohibited Steps Order to prevent Mr Y from removing the children from the jurisdiction
  • Refusal to permit the change of the children’s surname to Ms X’s surname
  • Imposition of a Section 91(14) order for a duration of 5 years to prevent Mr Y from making applications without court permission


The case of Ms X v Mr Y reiterates the court’s commitment to prioritizing children’s best interests and welfare in family law proceedings, particularly in the context of domestic abuse and coercive control. The judgment exemplifies the careful application of statutory guidelines and case law precedents to ensure fair trial rights are balanced with the need for proportionate and time-efficient legal processes. Mrs Justice Lieven’s judgment reinforces the importance of case management and the judicial discretion exercised to protect the vulnerable, providing a valuable reference for handling highly contentious private law family proceedings in the UK legal system.