Fathers usually succeed when applying for a court order to grant them parental responsibility for their children, as it is generally considered to be in the children’s best interests.
However, applications will be refused if the courts feel it would be to a child’s detriment, as happened in a recent case before the Court of Appeal.
It involved an unmarried couple who had separated when their son was five years old. The boy lived with his mother but when he was six, the father took him out of school and disappeared without telling the mother what was happening.
He was then tracked down by police and agreed to return the boy to school the following morning.
Court proceedings began and for the following two years the father was only allowed to see his son under supervision at a contact centre.
He then applied for parental responsibility and direct contact. Both the mother and the boy opposed the applications.
The court accepted that the father had demonstrated commitment to his son and they had an attachment to each other.
However, the judge held that the father was more concerned with his own perceived rights and needs than with his son’s needs and feelings. It was feared that if he were granted parental responsibility, he would use it to exercise control over the boy, and through him, control over the mother.
Both applications were refused.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the judge’s decision. It also ruled that the mother and son needed to be free from the burden of further litigation. The father was therefore told he could not make any further applications for two years.
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