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03 NOV 2009

COSTS/CONTACT: Re J (Costs of Fact Finding Hearing)

(Court of Appeal; Ward and Wilson LJJ; 26 October 2009)

The family had lived in Germany during the father's army posting, until the mother left the marital home and returned to England with the two children. The father sought unsupervised contact with the children. The mother made allegations of domestic abuse and violence against the father, allegations which she had made during the marriage to a health visitor and to the army welfare service in Germany. The father denied the allegations, claiming that the mother had made them with mala fides. At a fact-finding hearing to investigate the domestic violence claims the district judge found 11 of the 17 allegations against the father proved. However, the district judge refused to order costs in mother's favour and the circuit judge upheld that decision.

The mother's appeal on costs was allowed. The district judge should have looked at the extent to which the allegations against the father had been admitted, at those allegations for which there had not been sufficient evidence, and at the fact that some of the allegations concerned children. The father was ordered to pay two thirds of the mother's costs of the fact-finding hearing.

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