Coronation Street – Can Max stay with David? A Legal Perspective

Recent events on Coronation Street have resulted in Max Turner, Kylie Platt’s son, being left in the care of David Platt, who is not his biological father.  Max has remained with David, following Kylie’s departure from the street, together with his half-sister, Lily.

Max’s biological father, Callum Logan, has made an appearance and has threatened David that he may apply to the Court for Max to come and live with him.  Whilst Callum himself has an extremely dubious past, he has thrown in David’s face the fact this his family is respectable and his mother is a teacher.

What is of note is that when there have been onscreen discussions between David and Callum as to what Orders the Court may make, outdated language has been used.  Reference has been made to obtaining a Residence Order and some online forums even refer to a potential “custody battle” arising.

22nd April 2014 saw the introduction of the Single Family Court, which was considered to be the biggest shake up to the family court system since its inception.  Many changes were made to the Family Procedure Rules at the same time, which regulate the business of the family courts.

Some of the applications made to the Court (under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989) are no longer for Residence and Contact Orders, but rather for Child Arrangements Orders confirming who the child will live with and who the child will spend time with, together with details in relation to this time.

A question that may be on the minds of Corrie fans is, who the Court may determine Max should live with and, what time, if any, he should spend with the other parties.

Max’s mother, Kylie, and his father, Callum, would automatically be entitled to make an application to the Court regarding Max’s care, should they wish to do so as they are his parents.  Although David is not Max’s biological father and does not have Parental Responsibility he could also make an application as he is married to Max’s mother and Max is a “child of the family”.

It should be noted that only fathers named on the Birth Certificates of children born after December 2003 automatically have Parental Responsibility for a child, unless they have been married to the child’s mother, either prior to the child being born or subsequently.

Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 provides that the welfare of the child shall be the Court’s paramount (most important) consideration when the Court determines any question with regard to either:

  1. The upbringing of a child; or
  2. The administration of a child’s property or the application of any income arising from it.

If an application were to be made under the Children Act 1989 to the Family Court regarding Max, by either Kylie, Callum or David, the Court would need to take into account the Welfare Checklist.  This includes:

The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his age and understanding); as Max is eight years old the Court will place some weight on his wishes and feelings, particularly as he is able to clearly articulate the same.

Max’s physical, emotional and educational needs; as Max has been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication, this will also have to be taken into account, as well as his other physical, emotional and educational needs.

The likely effect on Max of any change in his circumstances; serious consideration needs to be given to the fact that Max has resided in his current home since November 2011 and, for the majority of this time, David has been present in the family home and has been one of his primary carers, together with Kylie, until her departure on Christmas Day 2014.Max’s half-sister, Lily, also lives at the property and there is, therefore, also the issue of sibling contact to be taken into consideration.If the Court was, therefore, to make an Order that Max should continue to live with David this would mean that there was no change of circumstances in respect of his actual living arrangements, although it may be ordered that Max should be permitted to spend time with one or both of his biological parents and the effect of this on Max should also be taken into account.If the Court made an order that Max should live with either Kylie and/or Callum then, obviously, the effect of the change of circumstances may be very relevant to the proceedings.

Max’s age, sex, background and any characteristics which the Court considers relevant;

Any harm which Max has suffered or is at risk of suffering;David, Kylie and Callum’s backgrounds may all be put under scrutiny by the Court when looking at the issue of harm and/or any risk of harm.When Kylie was initially the sole carer of Max, Social Services became involved, which resulted in Max being placed in foster care, because Kylie was not caring for him adequately and was going out drinking. Max was subsequently removed from foster care and placed into Kylie’s care after she had commenced a relationship with David. However, following her departure from the family home, at David’s insistence, on 25th December 2014, Kylie has not returned to care for Max and/or her younger daughter, Lily, despite repeated pleas by phone from David to do so.Callum previously lost contact with Kylie and Max whilst Max was relatively young. Callum is an ex-convict, having served a two year prison sentence for assaulting a Judge. There are currently significant concerns as to whether Callum is dealing drugs, although it is unknown as to whether he has any previous convictions for this. Before any decisions could be made as to whether Max could live with or spend time with Callum, it is likely that a risk assessment would need to be undertaken to ascertain whether or not Max would be safe in his care.If David were to apply for Max to live in his care, the Court would have to consider his criminal history:-

In April 2008 David was sentenced to four months detention in a Young Offenders’ Institute. This was after he had pushed his mother down the stairs, smashed vehicles and windows in Coronation Street, attacked Ken Barlow and elbowed a female Police Office. David was released from custody in June 2008 after serving less than two months.

On 21st October 2010 David was charged with the attempted murder of his ex-partner, Tina’s, new boyfriend, Graeme, as he had run him over. David was subsequently cleared of this offence, when it was suspected that he suffered from epilepsy and had maybe experienced a seizure at the time Graeme was run over.

In respect of potential risk of harm to Max, David’s epilepsy may need to be taken into account, particularly as, in May 2013, he suffered an epileptic fit at the park whilst Max was in his care.  It could be ascertained relatively easily from medical records as to whether the epilepsy is currently under control and, if so, there is no reason that this should require further consideration

How capable each of Max’s parents and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs; with regard to this issue, the Court may be best advised by considering the past conduct of the parties in relation to Max.Social Services have previously been involved with Kylie and Max. Even when Max was returned to Kylie’s care, following release from foster care, her love of money was almost too strong for her as she attempted to sell Max to her sister, Becky. Max went into the joint care of Kylie and David from 28th November 2011. As Kylie has left the family home, even though this was at David’s insistence as a result of her behaviour and involvement with drugs, Kylie’s capacity to care for a child could, therefore, be called into question. A further issue that would need to be investigated if consideration was to be given to placing Max in the sole care of Kylie is whether she has suitable accommodation and income to meet his needs.David has recently shown that he is capable of meeting the needs of both Max and his half-sister, Lily, by caring for them since Kylie’s departure. He has continued to provide a stable home for them and also has a good family network around him, who are able to provide additional support.Callum has only recently become involved in Max’s life and, at the present time, Max does not even realise that Callum is his father. Callum has no current experience of caring for a child and it is unknown at the present time as to whether he has the capacity to provide a suitable family home to Callum.

The range of powers available to the Court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question. Consideration is always given to whether it is in a child’s best interests for an Order to be made by the Court, or whether it is better for the Court to make no Order at all.In this instance, if the Court decided it was in Max’s best interest to remain in David’s care, then it may be considered that a Child Arrangements Order is necessary to confirm this, particularly as there is a risk that if no Order is made, Callum may attempt to remove Max from David’s care.

It is very difficult to predict what Order, if any, may be made by the Court if David, Kylie or Callum were to make an application regarding Max.  It is possible that it may be determined that none of them are suitable to care for Max on a full-time basis, which would usually result in members of the extended family being initially considered as kinship carers and, if no family members are suitable, could result in Max being placed back into foster care.

If you are experiencing any difficulties with regard to either seeing your child/children, or are concerned that someone else may attempt to remove them from your care, please urgently contact the Family Team at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855 to obtain the benefit of expert advice.