Child with divorced parents: Housing costs

The appeal in Manna v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 12 arose following an award of damages for a child who as a result of failings in the management of his birth suffered bilateral tetraparetic cerebral palsy and severe cognitive, social and communication impairments.

The relationship between the parents broke down following the child’s birth. They then remained living in the same house for about 2 years, sharing the care of the child, before they began to live apart. The award by the trial judge reflected the costs associated with care for the child in his primary home (with the mother) and in a secondary home (with the  father).

The appeal revisited that award and also considered whether the award in relation to future costs should be limited by reference to the life expectancy of the father, rather than of the child: [27]. That had not been argued at trial and so was not revisited on appeal: [31].

The Court of Appeal upheld the award in relation to the “second” property, saying at [26]:

In the circumstances the award in respect of a second home in this case should be regarded as generous and I entirely agree with the judge that it should also be regarded as intensely fact-dependent. Of course, generosity towards a claimant disadvantaged as is Lamarieo may not be misplaced, but I agree with the judge that her decision in this regard should not be regarded as establishing a precedent. ….. The Claimant was entitled to spend time with his natural father after his parents’ divorce, and the father should ordinarily be entitled to have his son stay with him in his own home. I interpose that if the proper language is not that of entitlement, these are at the very least reasonable expectations to which the law should strive to give effect. There was here, continued Mr Sweeting, a long history of shared care, including in the father’s own home, both before but significantly after the divorce. The father had in the past made minor adaptations to his property which it was agreed was not adequate going forward into the new era of professional residential care. The fact that the shared care arrangement had broken down did not mean, the judge found, that it would not be resumed in the future. The judge considered that it was in Lamarieo’s best interests for his relationship with his natural father to be restored, by which she meant I am sure that it was in his best interests that the arrangement of contact and care being partially afforded at the father’s home should be restored. …. In all the circumstances I am persuaded that we would not be justified in setting aside the award under this head. It was within the generous ambit of decision-making entrusted to the judge.



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