For many parties involved in family proceedings the breakdown of a relationship and resolving issues regarding the living and other arrangements for their children provoke strong emotions.

Whilst mediation can resolve issues relatively amicably and quickly there can remain issues that have to be decided within the court process.  Sometimes such proceedings can become protracted and particularly acrimonious.  Either party may be convinced that their views are right and will pursue litigation in such a way that many applications follow and the proceedings become unnecessarily extended.

Recent case highlights the possibility of civil restraint orders

In a recently reported case called AEY v AL the High Court refused seven applications by a father for permission to appeal and also made an extended civil restraint order.  There was a long history to the case with the family having been involved in legal proceedings since 2013.  In 2016 a Judge had noted that the father had made repeated private law applications and his most recent request for permission to appeal had been refused and certified as totally without merit.  The father then went on to make further applications and sought permission to appeal the outcome of those applications.

The High Court considered separately each of the seven applications by the father.

The Judge noted that she had read voluminous papers submitted by the father which had filled two cardboard boxes, many of which had no bearing on any of the applications for permission to appeal.  It was determined that none of the applications for permission to appeal should be granted and all of them were totally without merit.  Additionally, the Judge decided that she should make an extended civil restraint order preventing the father from making any further application concerning any matter involving or relating to the proceedings for the duration of two years.

Avoid a civil restraint order – seek legal advice and make sure you aren’t wasting precious time

The reason for making a civil restraint order is that a litigant who makes claims or applications which have absolutely no merit harms the administration of justice by wasting the limited time and resources of the courts. There is a strong public interest in protecting the court system from abuse by posing an additional restraint. The order does not prohibit access to the courts.  It merely requires a person who has repeatedly made wholly unmeritorious claims or applications to have any new claim or application falling within the scope of the order reviewed by the Judge at the outset to decide whether it should be permitted to proceed. It does not shut out claims or applications which are properly arguable.

The message is that the courts will deal with reasonable applications but any party considering raising an inappropriate and unnecessary matter should think again.

Andrew Lobb is a senior associate in Devon and Cornwall’s only family law teamranked in Tier One by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 family law team. If you have any questions with regards to family law, please call 01726 74433 or email