Pro Bono Story

Father’s uphill struggle to re-establish contact with his son: Sammy’s story

Sammy's story

After Sammy’s* relationship with his partner broke down, he saw his son every other weekend for overnight stays. Out of the blue, his ex-partner stopped all contact between them and refused to let Sammy have any relationship with their child.

After 20 months of desperately trying to be allowed to visit, Sammy searched online and stumbled across Dads House in October 2022. He came to our legal advice clinic and asked for help to be allowed contact and re-establish a routine with his son.

Over the course of 19 appointments, the clinic lawyers, led by Simon Bruce, and law students helped Sammy navigate the complex court and social services system. Initially, Sammy’s ex-partner was extremely uncooperative and difficult to deal with, even resorting to challenging his immigration status in an attempt to put obstacles in his way.

This was not the only difficulty Sammy faced. During one remote hearing that his ex-partner was required to attend in person, it became clear that she was not alone on the call, as Sammy’s son was listening on the end of the line and spoke to the court. In addition, when the local authority was asked to provide documents for disclosure, it took them a whole year and two court orders to comply.

However, Sammy’s desire to be a good father propelled him though all the problems and everything required of him by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass). The court ordered, after Cafcass’s recommendation, that both parents to take part in the Improving Child and Family Arrangements (ICFA) programme. Through this programme, Cafcass supervised five sessions at a contact centre, during which father and son were observed together, and they were able to rebuild their relationship.

All the Cafcass reports were extremely positive and recommended that Sammy be given longer, unsupervised and overnight visits at his home. Eventually, after four separate hearings, in which Sammy was represented pro bono by different barristers from Coram Chambers, this arrangement was approved by the court and Sammy was reunited properly with his son in February 2024.

In the last hearing, the barrister representing Sammy secured a free one-year subscription to Our Family Wizard, which is a court-approved application and is used in cases involving parental conflict. It enables parents to share photos and calendars, medical reports and appointments, while having no direct, personal interaction with each other.

Speaking about one of the Dads House Legal Advice Clinic’s lawyers, Simon Bruce, Sammy said:

“When I was stopped from seeing my child, I couldn’t raise the solicitor’s fees needed for my court case and didn’t know where to turn. I miraculously stumbled on Dads House and I must confess that I’m glad I did. Simon has been so kind, compassionate and non-judgmental since I’ve been visiting the clinic and I’m now in a much better place, all thanks to Simon and the team’s support.

Since the start of this legal journey, he has been a significant help. His insights and expertise about family matters has made the whole process progress positively in our favour. Well all need a Simon in our lives.”

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

Dads House aim is to make sure children remain the priority after divorce, separation or bereavement. Find out more about the legal clinic and its other services at