Children – acceptable to use recording devices in family proceedings?

The recent case of MvF [2016] has highlighted the court’s ongoing concern at the increased frequency of recording devices being covertly used by parties in family law proceedings regarding children.

Advances in technology have enabled individuals to use cheap and readily available surveillance and recording equipment to support their submissions and arguments at court. In this recent case regarding residence and contact with children, the family court heard how recording devices were sewed into the child’s clothing by the father’s new partner, for the purposes of gathering information from conversations that the child was having with social services, her school teachers and with the child’s mother, during the contact sessions.  The father subsequently provided transcriptions of conversations that had been recorded over a 15 month period.

The court found that it was almost always going to be inappropriate to place recording devices on children for the purpose of gathering evidence in these types of proceedings. In this particular case, the judge found that by making the secret recordings, the father and his new partner had potentially damaged the relationship with his child, together with the relationship of the child and other adults in her life, whilst also demonstrating a continued failure to rely on the support of the relevant professional services.

The court found that the evidence obtained from the recordings was unlawful, although the court did not consider this aspect fully and have left the door open for challenges in later proceedings. The costs associated with the recordings, in excess of £10,000, was ordered payable by the father too.

As the judge noted, it is all too easy in today’s world to have recordings and surveillance that would be the envy of any Cold War spy novel. However, it is imperative that anybody thinking about utilising the technology at their finger tips must do so with the utmost care and accept the potentially damaging consequences for their children.

Hunter and Uro Solicitors can help guide you through an application for a Child Arrangements Order and work with you to ensure that the evidence required to secure the outcome that is best for your children is successfully achieved. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. Please contact us on 01234 889777 to discuss how we can help you.