Once a father has obtained Parental Responsibility for a child, it is very difficult for this to be taken away from him.
Just to summarise, Parental Responsibility can be obtained by the father if he is married to the mother at the date of birth, they later marry, he is named on the Birth Certificate (if the child was born after 1 December 2003) or is granted Parental Responsibility by agreement or Order of the Court.
A recent case in the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the removal of a father’s Parental Responsibility is unusual. This is more so since the introduction of Child Arrangement Orders and shared parenting arrangements.
In the case in question, the father had been granted Parental Responsibility by agreement with the mother, for the child who was born in 2004.
In 2009, the father pleaded guilty to sexual offences committed on two of the mother’s daughters, which led to his imprisonment. Upon his release, the mother applied to the Court to have the father’s Parental Responsibility terminated. The father applied for a Specific Issue Order asking that the mother send him reports upon the child’s progress on an annual basis.
The Judge granted the mother’s application and refused the father’s. The father then appealed and the Court of Appeal agreed with the previous Judge’s decision. The Court of Appeal concluded that the child had suffered serious emotional harm because of his father’s crimes and that there was a risk of future harm should the father remain involved in his upbringing.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the Judge’s approach to apply the Welfare Checklist and that the child’s welfare was paramount. It was decided that the father would not be able to exercise his Parental Responsibility ‘with responsibility’.
The Court of Appeal wanted to make it clear that this case does not mean that it should be easier to remove a father’s Parental Responsibility. This case was decided upon facts that are unusual and any further cases will be decided upon the particular circumstances and of course the welfare of the child or children concerned.