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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Web date mother loses children
Computer generic
The woman used internet dating because she felt lonely
A mother is to lose custody of her two young children because she uses the internet to meet men.

Judges granted custody of the children to the woman's husband fearing that she might "set up home with a man she hardly knew".

The county court judge found the mother was using the internet for "social and sexual contact" because she was "incredibly lonely" after leaving work to look after her children.

But he concluded she could move away from her Hertfordshire home and "uproot" her children, aged three and four, in order to fulfil her desire to be loved.


Often parents aren't sufficiently mature, grown up and sensible enough to try and make an arrangement which doesn't make either feel down-graded or under-valued

Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss
Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss at London's Appeal Court on Wednesday, upheld the decision to place the children with the "more stable" father.

The mother wept as the court gave its ruling.

The court heard how the children's parents married in the early 1990s, but their relationship broke down a couple of years ago.

The woman had given up work to become the "primary carer" but as the couple went through divorce proceedings the father applied for custody of the children, the court was told.

Patricia Roberts, acting for the mother, said the original decision to award custody to the father was "irrational".

She said the social worker investigating the case "was of the view that it was in the children's best interests to remain living in the former matrimonial home with the mother caring for them."

Mental consequences

But Lord Justice Thorpe said the judge in the original case was "perfectly entitled" to come to the decision he did because there would still be "abundant" contact with mother.

Dame Elizabeth warned that parents involved in custody disputes often ignore the mental consequences of court proceedings on youngsters.

"We tend to overlook the degree to which children are ill-treated in this way by parents," she said.

"Often parents aren't sufficiently mature, grown up and sensible enough to try and make an arrangement which doesn't make either feel down-graded or under-valued."


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