The BBC has been following Bethan’s case for the past six months.
Her daughter’s father, who does not have a lawyer, appears via video conference from prison and is shown on a giant screen. He looks small, sitting behind a long table, with papers spread out in front of him.
In 2022, the average private family law case in England and Wales was taking around 10 months, or almost 45 weeks; It is a system “in crisis”, according to the Law Society, (the Bar Association of England and Wales).
And describe Bethan as “brave” for pursuing the case.
Over the next few weeks, the social worker spends time with Bethan and her daughter and visits the father in jail.
The case moves quickly and Bethan returns to the Cardiff Family Justice Center three months later.
The social worker’s report He is very critical of Bethan’s ex-husband.
The man appears to break down and says he “regrets not being able to be the father his daughter deserves,” before thanking the court.
He says he hopes he can be re-evaluated when he is released and requests an annual report detailing how his daughter is doing.
Bethan finds this type of indirect contact unacceptable. When her lawyer asks what value such a report would have, the father of her daughter intervenes: “It would be of great value to me,” she says.
As the case progresses, Bethan’s legal bills continue to pile up. To help with her expenses, her parents extended the mortgage on her house, something that “will significantly change her future.” But her priority is to protect the family.
“I feel sorry for the people who can’t find that money,” Bethan’s father says. ““They are in a horrible situation.”
The case has “taken over” all of their lives, but compared to many other family court cases, this one is moving quickly: the final hearing date is in less than two weeks.
Back in court, the judge summarizes the social worker’s findings.
Bethan is “hugely relieved” that they decide that her daughter should always live with her, while her ex-partner’s parental responsibility will be “widely restricted.”
In addition to the offenses for which he is in prison, the judge says the man also admitted viewing child sexual abuse material featuring incest and sexually harassing a vulnerable young girl.
This is “an extremely high risk,” says the judge, and does not allow the father to request annual reports.
The judge grants a restraining order, which will make it more difficult for Bethan’s ex-husband to ask to change the decision once he is released from prison.
You will be told if your daughter is terminally ill or if they have moved to another country, but you will not be told where they are.
For Bethan, who has spent hours researching family law and has read numerous stories from parents who do not get the decision they expected, It is a “huge relief.”
“I am very grateful,” she says.
Bethan’s parents are also very happy.
“For the first time in three years, my daughter will be free to raise her daughter in a normal, happy and healthy way,” says Bethan’s mother. “We can’t explain how unbearably painful it has been.”
As well as the emotional impact of bringing the case, it has also come at a significant cost: more than £30,000 ($37,000).
The family believes others could avoid similarly costly court cases if the law is changed to automatically suspend parental rights of pedophiles when they are sentenced, and only restore them if the offender requests it in family court.
The British Ministry of Justice told the BBC that they are “carefully reviewing the approach to parental access to ensure that all children are safe.”
For lawyer Hannah Markham, changing legal aid could be a faster and more effective way to allow more parents like Bethan to go to court, and she hopes this case will serve as a precedent.
“The more it’s published and talked about, the more it educates other people that this is the right thing to do,” he says.
Bethan and her parents believe that the presence of journalists in court under the new transparency scheme has really benefited them and will also be useful to others in the future.
Now Bethan says that her daughter “she can have a normal childhood and be safe.”
And one day, Bethan says, she will talk to her daughter about her father, sensitively and carefully, when she is old enough.
*This story uses a fake name to protect Bethan’s privacy.