August 4, 2017

Should all judges compile a ‘Dear Sam’ letter when putting children’s interests first?

A senior judge’s highly unusual move in explaining to a 14-year-old boy in a letter his decision why the child could not live with his father will have touched the hearts and minds of all parents.

Typically, judges produce a written ruling, In this case, Mr Justice Peter Jackson’s extraordinary action to compose a letter was made after the teenager, to whom he gave the pseudonym ‘Sam’, had given evidence and left for a school outing before the hearing had finished.

The case, in which Sam’s parents had disagreed since he was a baby, culminated in his application to move with his father to Scandinavia reaching the Family Division of the High Court.

In his letter, Mr Justice Peter Jackson explained why he did feel not feel relocation would be in Sam’s best interests. He also said he was confident his decision about Sam’s future was the right one in the long term.

This situation prompts the wider question of whether all judges should simplify court judgements to teenagers via a letter which cuts through the legal jargon and gets to the heart of the matter in language that young people can relate to.

The case also reinforces how vital it is for separating parents to ensure the best interests of their children when arranging their future security and wellbeing.

When couples split up, they continue to be parents and it is important that the process of unravelling their marriage or relationship doesn’t stop them co-operating on what is best for their offspring.

Parents who are not consumed by conflict and battles are more likely to strive towards ensuring that their children’s maintenance, emotional needs and education are properly supported.

A constructive approach through the divorce or separation will lay the best foundations for the children to feel settled with the new family relationships. As collaborative family lawyers, we advise parents to reach a settlement, wherever possible, by avoiding protracted, expensive and stressful court confrontations. This will help the whole family come to terms with their new lives and face the future.

For more information about children’s issues or any aspect of family law, call Jones Myers at our Leeds office on 0113 246 0055, our Harrogate office on 01423 276104, visit, email or tweet us @helpwithdivorce