The pressures upon the courts became even more apparent during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. In one 24-hour period in March 2020, we received more than 800 enquiries from concerned parents needing advice on child arrangements during the pandemic.

Our experienced lawyers were able to advise on the issues promptly and hopefully avoid parents having to pursue matters further or through the courts. Unfortunately, in some cases, legal action was the only option.

Unnecessary applications

The 2020 case of Re B (A Child) concerned a two-year-old child.

The father applied to the court for contact, the mother raised safeguarding issues. The court ordered the disclosure of local authority records and police disclosure. The mother also said she would disclose her medical records for the period relevant to the case. An order was made for disclosure of five years' worth of medical records. This was successfully appealed, as records for five years were deemed "unnecessary and disproportionate".

The judgment clearly sets out the judge's frustrations concerning unnecessary applications. He concluded that this type of litigation "should only come before a court where it is genuinely necessary". He encouraged family law practitioners to steer clients away from court except where necessity demands otherwise.

He gave a very clear warning. If unnecessary cases are brought to court the parties and/or their advisors will be criticised and sanctions may be imposed. He further encouraged other methods of dispute resolution such as mediation.