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High Court backs boy who rejected father

A schoolboy who was told by a judge that he must live with the father he claimed to hate yesterday succeeded in forcing the High Court to reverse its decision.

The 12-year-old boy, who can only be named as S, won the long court battle after Judge Clifford Bellamy said that "by consent of all parties" the boy should continue to live with his mother.

However in a written ruling yesterday the judge added: "On July 21 2010 a wholly deserving father left my court in tears having been driven to abandon his battle to implement an order which I had made on January 4 2010 that his son, S, now aged 12, should move to live with him."

The child had been transferred to foster care in mid-March to begin "introductory meetings" before moving in with his 43-year-old father at the end of the month but during each visit, the boy put his head in his lap, put his fingers in his ears, and refused to eat and drink.

His court guardian described the meeting as "extremely difficult", adding: "S did not look at his father and had his head down for the whole time. I spoke to S after his father had left and he was feeling numb but 'good'. He said to say thank you and said that this was not the end and he would think about seeing his father after his GCSEs.

"I am sure he listened to his father and it was S who volunteered that this was not the end and he would see his father on his terms when he was ready. Overall S managed the situation very well, but sadly we could hear his father sobbing as he left."

The parents, who are both professionals, had married in 1996 and separated the following June before the boy was born.

The father made his first application for contact immediately, which included holidays, but the visits ended in 2006.

"Over the next four years immense energy and resources were invested in trying to reinstate a meaningful relationship between father and son. Those efforts failed. That led to my order transferring residence from mother to father," the judge said.

His decision was later upheld by the Court of Appeal, which rejected a challenge by the mother.

But after the difficult visits in March this year, the boy's social worker recommended he return to his 42-year-old mother in the Midlands and the father agreed on the understanding that more work was needed before he could move in.

However, by the following month Warwickshire County Council and the boy's guardian had become so concerned about his mental health that they said they believed that attempts to transfer him to the care of his father should be abandoned and he reluctantly agreed that he would have no direct contact with his child, only access to photographs and school reports, unless the boy requested it.

In his ruling Judge Bellamy said that the case raised serious issues about children who had become "alienated" from a parent. "There is a clear need for further debate and research in this area."

"The parents and the guardian agreed that S has suffered significant emotional harm as a result of the parents' failure to secure for him a full and normal relationship with his father and paternal family and as a result of the high level of parental tension and conflict since proceedings were first issued in June 1999," he said.

He added he had no doubt the father's decision not to seek implementation of the residence order made on January 4 "will have been a very painful decision for him to take".

"However, after all that has happened in the six months since my order of January 4, I have no doubt that the decision was the right decision for S. I warmly commend the father for it."