Tea prescribed for warring parents
A man and woman who became embroiled in years of legal action over their children following a split have reached a consensus after a High Court judge suggested they should "sit down around the kitchen table" and have a cup of tea together.
Mrs Justice Pauffley said she made "some practical proposals" after a "dismal decade of litigation" and each parent had "reacted positively".
The judge said they had agreed to "share" the 12-year-old twin boys at the centre of the dispute and had accepted that a return to litigation would be a "profoundly retrograde step".
She said the case showed that protracted legal proceedings over children are "profoundly harmful to everyone concerned", and added that letters written by the youngsters "made me sad".
Detail emerged in a written analysis of the case by the judge following the latest hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
"The very sad reality is that for more than 10 years there has been court conflict between the parents," said Mrs Justice Pauffley, who did not name anyone involved.
"Various issues have arisen - parental responsibility, contact (how much, how often, staying or visiting, the arrangements for collection and delivery), the children's last names - but overall the battle has been about the role which their father should properly occupy in the children's lives."
The judge said the dispute demonstrated that "protracted litigation over children is profoundly harmful to everyone concerned" and she said she had "talked tough" to both parents.
"I also made some practical proposals as to how the parents might interact with one another in their sons' presence so as to make their transitions from one home to the other a less tense and a more enjoyable experience," she said.
"In particular, I suggested that when the boys were dropped off and picked up, each parent should be made welcome in the home of the other, invited to sit down around the kitchen table and offered a cup of tea (or similar).
"Pleasingly, very pleasingly, against the background of the last 10 years, each parent reacted positively to that idea and it's been good for the boys."
The judge said that at the latest hearing there had been a sense of "everyone being exhausted" and wanting the "process to end".
And she said a consensus had been reached.
"It gives me great pleasure to approve the draft consensus which provides that henceforward there is to be a shared residence order in favour of both parents," said the judge.
"The boys' weekends will alternate between the homes of their mother and father. School holidays and half-terms will be divided more or less equally.
"The details will be worked out by the parents. They welcome without hesitation the firm message that this is the final order, that there is no need for any further court involvement, and that any return to litigation would be a profoundly retrograde step."