Boy refused to attend access over his father’s Mass visits, court told

Mother suggests if father ‘stops all the religious stuff’ their teenaged son might see him

“The teenager’s mother told Judge Dermot Simms that the father had “a religious way of going on”. Photograph: Alan Betson

“The teenager’s mother told Judge Dermot Simms that the father had “a religious way of going on”. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A teenager has resisted access visits because his father was bringing him to Mass all the time, a mother told the Dublin District Family Court on Thursday.

The boy’s mother told Judge Dermot Simms the father had “a religious way of going on”. He would bring the boy into a church in town and on one occasion the boy said he was ill and wanted to go home, but his father said no, he would bring him to the church and a priest would bless him. The father also told the boy, in his mid-teens, that his mother was going to burn in hell and they would live together on an island, the mother said.

She said the father had access to their son on Sundays in the past, but had stopped attending.

“He stopped coming for two years,” she said.

“Then he called [their son] and said, ‘Sorry for not collecting you, I had a chest infection’, and my son said, ‘A chest infection for two years?’”

She said she believed a boy should see his father, but he was refusing to go and she did not know how to make him.

“Maybe if he stops all the religious stuff...,” she said. She asked the judge to speak to the boy, who was outside court.

‘Absolutely heartbroken’

The solicitor for the father said his client was not disputing he had faith, but he was not forcing that on his son. He denied he had said the boy’s mother would burn in hell. He said the father was seeking to change access, which was inconsistent, and have overnight access with his son.

Giving evidence, the father said he was “absolutely heartbroken over the child”.

He said he had tried to phone him and contact him through Facebook, but he was blocked. They used to have a very loving bond, he said. He stopped attending access with the boy for a time because he had a chest infection and also because he wanted a break after the boy had misbehaved. He had bought his son 7 Up, he said, and “the fizz got into his system” and he had to restrain him.

He told the judge he only brought the boy to Mass on five to 10 occasions and to Eucharistic Adoration on seven. He said he did not want his son brought into court as he believed the child had been influenced by his mother. He also offered the judge three character references, two from religious organisations and one from a priest.

‘Good character’

The judge said he did not need the references as he accepted the father was of “very good character”. He also said he was reluctant to talk to the boy in the absence of the father’s agreement.

It was clear both parents wanted the best for the boy, the judge said, but he was growing up and parental control was diminishing. He suggested family counselling might be a route toward access. He declined to make a new access order and discharged the previous order as it was “unenforceable”. The penalty on the mother for breaching it was a fine or prison, and “should not be there” in the case of a “wilful” boy of his age.

In a separate case, the judge doubled the maintenance to a mother for her two children, from €50 a week to €100. The father, who was self-employed, had said he could not afford the increase.

“I can manage €70, your honour, I can’t manage the hundred,” the father said.

Examining his statement of means and bank statement, the judge said the bank account details showed the father only earned €76 a week, while he had said he earned €177.

“So you earn less than you’re telling me?” the judge said.

“It’s tough out there,” the father responded.

“I don’t believe you,” the judge said. He told the father he could appeal the increase in maintenance if he wished. The father said he would not appeal, but would bring things further.

“Do I apply here to speak to a social worker?” he asked, before leaving the court.