Mother’s fundraising page in family case unlawful, judge rules

A mother who set up a fundraising page for her family case has lost in her application to travel with her children to Asia after the website made it ‘difficult for the court to trust’ that she will not breach an order as a result of ‘another serious error of judgment’.

The family court case involved child arrangement orders for two young children, including an order permitting the mother to remove the children temporarily from the UK to visit maternal family members abroad.

The judgment in A father v A mother described the mother’s GoFundMe as a ‘misguided attempt’ to raise funds for legal proceedings. On the page, the mother named herself and the children, included a photograph and details of her applications in family proceedings as well as allegations, not pursued in court, against the father.

The judgment acknowledged that the father was not named but would be readily identifiable by anyone who knew the family. By the time the webpage was deleted, it had received 37 donations totalling £3,350.

GoFundMe app

Paul Bowen KC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, said ‘the publication of those details without first checking with her legal advisers was a serious error of judgment’ and details of the proceedings published on the website had ‘inevitably set back this process’.

Finding a moderate and ‘not insignificant risk’ that the mother would ‘abduct the children’ if permitted to travel, the judge added. ‘Either way, this makes it difficult for the court to trust that the mother will not breach a court order deliberately or as a result of another serious error of judgment if she is permitted to travel with the children.’

He acknowledged that the children, both under five, did not need to travel to see their maternal family as their grandmother regularly visits the UK and they have an aunt who lives in the country.

The judge dismissed the travel applications and allowed the father’s application for a prohibited steps order meaning the mother cannot take the children to Malaysia and Hong Kong for the next 12 months.

In a postscript to the judgment, the judge said: ‘I am, however, extremely concerned about the mother’s willingness to publicise details of this case on a ‘GoFundMe’ page, in which she has made allegations of coercive control that she has not pursued to a fact-finding hearing. It matters not whether that can be termed ‘lawfare’. It was irresponsible, unreasonable and unlawful.

‘That, as I have found, has further undermined the local authority’s efforts to assist and encourage the parents to co-operate in parenting the children. Any further applications to remove the children to Malaysia or Hong Kong during the next 12 months will rekindle the conflict during a period I consider is essential to enable the children to have some stability.’

Committal proceedings in relation to the GoFundMe page ‘would not be proportionate or consistent with the overriding objective’ and was ‘not in the best interest of the children’, the judge said.