Various papers have reported this week on the biological father who ‘lost’ his daughter to other family members because, in the words of the Judge “love is not enough.”
Such headlines can scare parents, especially fathers into believing it is easy to lose a child, but it is important to remember that behind such headlines, the facts are often rather more complicated, and that only recently, the most senior family judges, sitting in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court reminded practitioners that adoption of a child must always be a matter of last resort.
The case, which was based in Manchester concerned a girl of 7, whose mother, her primary carer, had passed away. Following the death of her mother, her father applied for residence of her, however her aunt and uncle on her mother’s side, who live in the US also applied to be her carers. In considering the options, the Judge found in favour of the maternal Aunt and Uncle in America, and allowed them to adopt the girl in order to give her long term stability.
It is reported that the basis for the decision was a concern as to whether the father was capable of recognising the girl’s emotional needs and more particularly, of meeting them, especially in circumstances where she had suddenly and unexpectedly lost the parent who had cared for her. The case demonstrates the importance the courts place on a child’s emotional security and well-being, as well as their day to day practical and physical needs.
Many people will be shocked to learn that in circumstances where a parent remains alive and willing to care for a child, that child may, nevertheless, be adopted elsewhere if the remaining parent has not mistreated the child. Indeed in recent case law, the court’s highlighted the need to avoid social engineering by not always placing a child with the best possible parents if their own are “good enough” even if that is not as good as some objective people would want or expect and it is important to remember that these cases remain rare and that there are often facts in the individual case which explain the decision, which is why the Family Justice system is looking at ways to improve transparency in cases such as this.
Where arrangements are made within the family for a child to be cared for by extended family members, adoption is often felt to be inappropriate, as it can skew the child’s relationships within the family unit. Special Guardianship, Residence and Care Orders can also be used, and it is important that all options are considered in order to assess which will be most appropriate in any given circumstances.
Slater and Gordon have offices nationwide and offer both flexible pricing and fixed fees for family law and divorce. For a free initial consultation call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.