A Court of Appeal judge faced with having to decide whether two young children should live with their mother or their grandmother has said that he ‘cannot be Solomon’ and order them to be cut in half.
Lord Justice Ward told the children’s paternal grandmother that she would no longer be able to care for the boy and girl, aged five and three, as if they were her own.
Despite winning the judge's sympathy and admiration, the grandmother was refused permission to appeal against a family court decision that the children, who she has cared for since the girl was a one-year-old baby, must move to live with their mother.
However, in a powerful message to the mother, the judge said that she was duty-bound to ensure that her children have love and respect for their grandmother and continue to see her regularly as they grow up.
The judge said that the grandmother took in the mother and her children in 2010 because the mother was 'in a mess' and was clearly unable to cope with bringing up the children herself.
However, after the mother made a 'dramatic improvement', a family judge recently decided that the children could be returned to her care.
Lord Justice Ward said that the decision was a 'finely balanced’ one as both the grandmother and the mother had a strong case that she should be the children's primary carer.
However, after observing that he 'cannot be Solomon', the judge added: ‘They had to go with one or the other. It is a hard judgment to make, but one which I simply cannot say is wrong.’
He said that the family judge had made the decision in the best interests of the children as it might affect their self-esteem to grow up only seeing their mother on weekends.
Refusing the grandmother permission to appeal, he said: ‘I have great sympathy for her - more than that, I have great admiration for her.
‘I earnestly hope that this is a very strong message to the mother who sits before me. It is her bounden duty to ensure that her children love and respect their grandmother and see her regularly.
‘If life gets too tough for the mother, as it conceivably might, I have no doubt that this grandmother is loving and generous enough to take over responsibility for the children if necessary.’