I have been following the Radio 4 Drama Series Behind Closed Doors with interest. The Series, which aims to increase transparency and understanding of those legal hearings usually held in private, follows a fictional barrister through a series of hearings based on real-life cases. This week the drama was set in the Family Court and focuses on the conflict that arises for children when parents with different religious beliefs separate.
In Tuesday’s episode a Judge must decide whether a divorced dad of four, Yossi, should have to adhere to the strict rules of Orthodox Judaism in the way he raises his children although he no longer follows them himself.
This drama shows the complex balancing of welfare, needs and liberties that Family Court Judges deal with on a daily basis. The mother, Esti, is concerned that Yossi’s actions are isolating the children from the Orthodox community and asks the Court to Order that Yossi is made to observe the Orthodox rules when the children are with him. She also wants the children to remain with her during Shabbat and religious holidays.
Yossi, who had separated himself from the Orthodox community following divorce wants a relaxation of the strict rules when the children are with him, which includes being allowed to watch TV and occasionally eating non-kosher food. Yossi questions whether being Orthodox is in the best interests of the children and argues that the children should be able to decide when they are older whether they want to continue to follow the Orthodox beliefs or not.
Esti and Yossi also argue over whether the children should remain in their “good” Orthodox school or whether they should move to a Jewish non-Orthodox school which had been rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted.
This episode will be a particularly interesting listen for those parents who are forced to navigate the family Court without the assistance of a solicitor or barrister, as for financial reasons Yossi is self-representing whilst Esti, who’s legal fees are being met by the Orthodox Jewish Community, has the benefit of an experienced barrister. I don’t want to give too much away but the change in the CAFCASS Officer’s recommendation under cross examination from the mother’s barrister is a clear demonstration of the advantages of being represented by a barrister in Court, against the backdrop of Yossi struggling to vocalise his arguments and with a clear lack of understanding of Court etiquette.
Although it raises difficult issues, I would highly recommend anyone who is currently navigating Children Act proceedings to add this to your list of essential listening this week.
If you are facing a similar situation and would like advice in regards to separation, divorce or children issues please contact Jen Pollock on 0117 9069400, or email email@example.com