Salford CC v W and Ors – Family Law Week Case Summary

February 5, 2021

Lauren Suding reviews the decision by MacDonald J in the High Court, Family Division: (1) dismissing a prohibited steps order application preventing Roman Catholic sacraments for children ages 4-11 in a proposed Special Guardianship setting, and (2) adjourning an application for a declaration on their legal status (for purposes of eventually determining the local authority’s obligation to pay remuneration), pending involvement in the question from both local authorities (Norfolk and Suffolk).

Background

There are five children, from age 4 to age 11 years old, and all parties agree that they should stay in the care of a maternal aunt and her partner, Mrs Z and Mr Y, with whom they have lived since June 2017. All parties also agree there should be a Special Guardianship Order.

On 20 December 2018, Norfolk issued care proceedings under Part IV of the Children Act 1989 with respect to the four elder children but requested that the court grant child arrangements orders in favour of Mrs Z and Mr Y.  On 21 December 2018, all five children were made the subject of child arrangements orders in favour of Mr Y and Mrs Z.

At a hearing on 9 May 2019, the proceedings were formally transferred to the Family Court sitting at Manchester, and Salford City Council became the designated local authority for the children by consent, with Norfolk being discharged as a party to the proceedings.  In September 2019, Salford applied for permission to amend the original application for care orders.

The first application before the court at this hearing was for an order prohibiting the maternal aunt and proposed special guardian of the children, Mrs Z, from giving effect to her stated intention to have each of the children take the sacraments of initiation in the Roman Catholic faith of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion and the healing sacrament of Reconciliation (as included in the seven sacraments given by the Council of Florence (1439) and reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1545–1563), the others being the healing of the sick, marriage and the taking of Holy Orders). The mother follows the protestant Pentecostal faith. The children were not baptised into that faith, but the mother contended that the children were raised in the Pentecostal faith.

The second application was by the maternal aunt/proposed special guardian of the children, Mrs Z, for a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court regarding the children’s legal status for the purposes of Part III of the Children Act 1989. This was in the context of issues the arising with respect to payment of financial support following the making of a special guardianship order.

Read the full summary on Family Law Week.

Ruth Cabeza acted for Salford City Council in the case.