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Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 34895
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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My husband and I have a Residence Order (granted 2010) for

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My husband and I have a Residence Order (granted 2010) for our 7 year old grand-daughter. Her parents want unsupervised contact. Her mother and has a history of abuse and, prior to the RO, Social Services had our grand-daughter's name on the Register fir Children at Risk - Neglect, and were going to apply for a care order if we did not apply for the RO. Can we legally prevent u/s contact or not?
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
What has been the pattern of contact until now (how often) and has there been any improvement in the parents general lifestyle?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The usual pattern is 3 hours on the second Saturday of every month. If it has to be cancelled for any reason then phone contact is usually provided. We live approx. 70 miles away from the parents and facilitate contact ourselves, travelling all the way to the contact as the mother suffers from agoraphobia and cannot travel on public transport to meet us halfway. The mother has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and has crises of varying intensity and frequency. Apparently she has now been discharged from the mental health team as she is considered to be 'stable'. To give you an example of one of our concerns, as we drove up to the pavement by her house, she was waiting and before we had even turned the engine off, she took our g/daughter out of her booster seat and introduced her to the taxi driver whom she was talking to. The taxi driver gave our g/daughter his card and said "Any time you want to, ring me and I will be there to bring you to mummy and daddy". (May/June 2014). From our point of view, this is exposing our g/daughter to potential danger ie encouraging her to get into cars with strangers, when we are trying to educate her about the dangers of such. Since we first had the RO granted, there have been some improvements but we still have serious reservations in light of incidents such as the above. Due to the mother's Borderline Personality Disorder, she has self harmed on numerous occasions to the extent that now her husband is supposed to administer her medication to prevent her taking an overdose, and she is only provided with a weeks' supply at a time. Due to the mother's past history (set fire to her bedroom as a teen while the family were still in the house, threw a chair across my back, threw a vase at me and other incidents directed at me and her siblings), and more recent events directed at her husband (although he doesn't do anything about these and blames her illness) wouldn't she come under the category of 'individuals whose past or present behaviour suggests that a child may be at risk of significant harm (ref: Cheshire West LSCB/Children in contact with individuals who are a potential risk to children)? We are almost certain that our g/daughter would not be harmed physically, but our concern is that she would be at significant risk of harm emotionally if u/supervised contact were to be allowed.

I hope this information is helpful.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Additional Info:

After the RO was granted, we moved away to help our g/daughter lead a more settled life. At that time the case was closed by the Local Authority and there has been no further involvement from Social Services.

Would you be willing to move contact to a Contact Centre where you will not be there - but other people will be?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I don't think so because our g/daughter has only ever known this pattern of contact

Bearing in mind that contact may well have to move on would a Contact Centre be something you would consider?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

If contact had to move on then we would have to consider a Contact Centre if we had no other option. The thing is that when the RO was granted the Social Worker involved with the case said that if the parents were to want our g/daughter to live back with them, she would be placed back on the Register for Children At Risk. Surely the same principle would apply to u/s contact. Is a Contact Centre our only other option? We do not mind facilitating supervised contact, the question is do we have grounds to say no to u/s contact?

Clearly time has passed since that Order was made - and in that time the circumstances of the parents have moved on.
The risks that would be involved in unsupervised contact are not the same as those that would arise if the child returned to their permanent care
Accordingly that argument is not relevant.
Contact supervised by the carer is rarely seen as being the most positive - so at this point offering contact at a contact centre would be a reasonable compromise and would ensure the safety of the child - and avoid any further "taxi driver" type incidents
If the parents do not wish to accept this then it is for them to apply to the courts so that Social Services can decide what ongoing contact would be appropriate
Please ask if you need further details
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you