An application from the father of a child was considered by the Family Court in interim proceedings, whereby the father sought contact with his four year old son before and after surgery which the boy was about to undertake.
The Judge explained that the focus of the court was to determine what was in the best interests of the child. He added that the court’s concern was not in respect of the father’s rights, nor in respect of the mother’s rights, but what was in the best interest of the child. The judge agreed there were difficulties in evaluating evidence where there was substantial controversy, and in these situations the court was guided by evidence that is agreed or admitted or can be objectively verified.
The judge further explained that even in interim proceedings the court has the task of evaluating the risk to the child who is the subject of the proceedings and in evaluating the risk, the court is required to firstly consider the possibility of the risk and secondly the consequences should that event occur; in other words the risk materialises into an actual event.
In line with this approach the Judge found that there was a risk in the father’s attendance at the hospital before and after the surgery. The first risk identified was the risk of conflict between the parents of the child and the second risk was that the father’s mental health condition could result in him behaving in an inappropriate way.
The doctor for the father offered to attend the hospital with the father for a period of fifteen minutes before the surgery and fifteen minutes after the surgery however the judge ruled that the offer was impractical as there were no guarantees the surgery would be commenced or finished at a certain time.
The Judge denied the father’s application.