Family Law Titles
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(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Wall and Hooper LJJ; 28 November 2006)
The father had not had contact with the children since they were 6 and 4 years old, when he began to live as a woman. After having gender reassignment surgery the father sought contact with the children, now aged 11 and 8. The expert expressed concern that if the children were not soon told the truth in a structured and sensitive way they would be likely to be damaged by finding it out for themselves. He recommended professional support and assistance from the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) in informing the children of the truth, particularly in the light of the mothers attitude towards the gender reassignment. The judge instead ordered a 20-month moratorium, with very limited indirect contact in the form of Christmas, Easter and birthday cards; at the end of that period the mother would be required to file a statement setting out how and when she proposed to inform the children of the father's gender reassignment.
The judge had failed to explain his departure from the expert's recommendation. It was important to distinguish two separate strands in this case; had contact been the only issue the moratorium could not have been criticised, but there was also the issue of informing the children of the truth and the longer the moratorium the greater the risk that the children would be damaged by discovering the truth independently. The children needed and were entitled to professional help in dealing with the truth. The children were to be joined as parties and NYAS was to be involved.
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