Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: we cannot investigate this complaint about Ms X’s contact arrangements with her child. This is because the matter has been considered in court.
- The complainant, who I have called Ms X, complained that the London Borough of Wandsworth has stopped her having contact with her child who lives with a family in Holland under a Special Guardianship Order.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information provided by Ms X. I have considered the complaint documents provided by the Council. I invited Ms X’s comments on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a Family Court order which gives the holder parental responsibility of a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. The order enables the Special Guardian the make day-to-day decisions on behalf of the child.
- Ms X’s child lives with a family in Holland. The family has a SGO for the child. The Family Court in England granted the SGO, which includes contact arrangements between Ms X and her child.
- Ms X’s child is now resident in Holland. The SGO has been registered with the Dutch courts. The Family Court in England no longer has any jurisdiction in the matter.
- Ms X says the Council has stopped her having contact with her child. She wants her contact reinstated and increased. The Council said it has no legal standing in the child’s life and advised her to take action through the Dutch courts.
- We cannot investigate this complaint.
- Ms X’s contact arrangements with her child were decided in an English court. The SGO has now been registered with the Dutch courts as Ms X’s child is resident in Holland. As the matter has been considered in court we cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint. I explained the reason for this in paragraph 3.
- It seems it is the Special Guardians - not the Council - who may be preventing contact between Ms X and her child. If this is the case, it is open to Ms X to go to court in Holland to enforce the terms of the SGO. Similarly, if she wants to increase contact with her child, she would have to go to court in Holland.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman