A vegetarian mother refused to let her five-year-old son have any contact with his father for more than a year – because she feared he might feed him meat.
London's Civil Appeal Court heard that the mother was so worried about her son's diet that she 'put up the shutters' and refused to allow him any contact with his father.
However, Lord Justice Underhill ruled that the boy's welfare outweighed his mother's fears, and warned her that her son will be sent to live with his father if she failed to comply with the court's decisions over parental access.
The judge said he was giving the mother 'a last opportunity' to remain her son's primary carer.
In August, a family judge in Bristol ordered a strict regime of contact between father and son – including overnight and weekend visits – and told the mother a residence order would be made in the father's favour if she put a foot out of line.
The mother, who is from the Bristol area, had been refusing to engage in the court process and the father had not seen his son for more than a year.
The mother's barrister, Byron James, argued on appeal that the reintroduction of so much contact after such a long break was 'too sudden and too steep a progression' and was likely to cause both the boy and his mother emotional harm.
He said the boy's father 'insisted on calling him by another name' and that the mother had legitimate concerns that the father would not comply with their son's strict vegetarian diet or could expose him to danger by failing to ensure he wore a car seatbelt.
He claimed the family judge was wrong to inflict on the mother the 'latent threat' of her son's removal from her home.
Lord Justice Underhill recognised the bitterness between the parents and said that it was not the court's purpose to 'punish' the mother, but to ensure that the five-year-old had a positive relationship with his father as he grew up.
Refusing the mother permission to appeal, he said there was 'nothing even arguably wrong' with the contact order, the Telegraph reports.
However disruptive the son's reintroduction to his father might be, the family judge had been entitled to 'take the plunge'.
The threat of the boy's removal from his mother had had the desired effect and, although she may not have done so willingly, she had complied with the contact order since August, he added.
Recognising that contact between father and son had been 'very painful and distressing' for the mother, the judge said he hoped there would be 'civilised interactions' between the parents in the future and that issues, including his diet, could be 'sensibly negotiated'.
He added: "I do, for this five-year-old boy's sake, wish the mother and father the best in doing their best for their son."
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