20 May 2014
A family judge has hailed the miraculous benefits of sitting down to a 'nice cup of tea' after this played a central role in healing a bitter ten-year rift between parents of twin boys and enabled them to agree a shared residency order.
The former couple, who had separated six months after their sons were born prematurely, had been in dispute over contact with the boys ever since, meeting in court on no less than 24 occasions. However, Mrs Justice Pauffley said that her prompt that they should sit down together for a cup of tea had brought extraordinary results.
The judge added, "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."
The judge said that the twins' birth had put enormous pressure on the parents' long-term relationship. When the boys came home, after eight weeks in hospital, they were extremely weak and the mother was 'intensely protective of them'. The father 'felt excluded' and the parents' relationship crumbled under the strain.
The twins, now aged 12, were less than a year old when their mother and father had their first date in court, and the judge said that 'the very sad reality' was that there had been a decade of conflict between the former couple, focused on the father's role in the boys' lives.
However, after the father described everyone in the family as 'exhausted' by the years of litigation, the judge made her 'cup of tea' suggestion and sense began to prevail. Both parents, 'to their very great credit', made concessions and agreed to build bridges.
The new spirit of compromise had led to 'a seismic shift of attitude' and the parents had put their years of conflict behind them, agreeing shared contact arrangements which would ensure the father played a full role in his sons' lives.
After paying tribute to social workers and other professionals involved in the case, the judge had 'great pleasure' in confirming a new consensus between the former couple, whereby the boys will spend alternate weekends with each parent and contact over school holidays and half terms will be shared more or less equally.
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