Eastenders' Janine Applies for Residence Order

Janine’s back from the jungle and she’s told Michael she’s applied to the court for a residence order in respect of little Scarlett, despite leaving her in Michael’s care for the last six months. Tuesday’s episode showed Michael speaking to a solicitor about his prospects of fighting Janine’s application and returned to the street very glum. So how much of what he was advised was correct?

  • Michael was told about the benefits of endeavouring to resolve matters at mediation. Mediation is a process where parties discuss matters with a mediator present. The benefits of mediation can include resolving matters on a less costly and more amicable basis rather than through court proceedings. This is correct, but there are other methods of resolving matters outside the court arena such as collaborative law which he failed to discuss. In most cases it is worth attempting mediation. In fact the court usually requires evidence that mediation was tried prior to applying for a residence or contact order. If mediation breaks down or is unsuccessful then it may be time to consider starting court proceedings.
  • Court proceedings can be costly, which is why it is important to instruct solicitors who are experts in their field so that they can offer you down-to-earth advice, and explain at the outset your prospects of succeeding. They will write to your ex often resolving matters in correspondence without the need for proceedings. At Lanyon Bowdler we can offer a range of pricing options to suit you and provide top quality legal advice. 
  • Michael’s solicitors did not give Michael any advice about the prospects of his case. Neither did he discuss the law, namely the Children Act 1989. That makes Scarlett’s welfare the court’s paramount consideration.
  • Many soap lines like to give the impression (such as with Tyrone and Kirstie in Coronation Street), that the court prefers children to reside with their Mother. There is no law to this effect. Instead the court will apply the welfare checklist. Below are some of the more prominent points in the welfare checklist which would apply in Michael’s case.
  • The court will look at the likely effect any change in circumstances will have on the child. Scarlett appears to be stable and has done well in Michael’s care for the last six months. Janine stating that she simply wants Scarlett back because she is her mother is not good enough!
  • The court would need to consider the harm suffered and risk of harm to the child. Given Janine’s criminal record, she should be worried!
  • Janine is yet to prove herself as being a committed and capable mother. Where as the fact Scarlett is doing so well gives credit to Michael’s parenting capability (that or Alice’s).

Assuming Janine does not discover something shocking about Michael’s past, or fabricates some huge lie (both of which are quite likely to happen given that it is Janine!), Michael has good prospects of securing a residence order in his favour. This was not the impression Eastender’s script writers gave, but let us not forget they are writing a soap not giving legal advice.