About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Does the father have the right to know?

From the Guardian on 8.11.07:

A mother's decision to put a child conceived during a one-night stand
up for adoption has turned into a legal dilemma over parental rights
and responsibilities.

The woman, 20, has told the court of appeal she does not want anyone
to know the identity of the father, a work colleague. However, her
local authority believes her family and the father should be
approached to see if they are willing and able to look after the baby girl, who is now 17 weeks old.

A county court has already ordered that the woman's parents and the father should know. Yesterday three appeal court judges were asked to reverse that order. The local authority is preparing to take the child into care after receiving a report that she was "abandoned" by the mother at the hospital where she was born.

Eleanor Hamilton QC, representing the mother, said she had not told
her parents or the father about her pregnancy because she did not want them to know. "This girl was unable to bring herself to tell the
parents and drove herself to hospital in the dead of night to have the child.

"She is a perfectly ordinary girl in a job she loves, who is living
her own life. That should be taken into account by the court." Ms Hamilton said the mother lived away from her parents.

Although the parents now know about the child, she has consistently refused to name the father. Ms Hamilton said: "It was, on the account given by the mother, a one-night stand with a fellow employee while
both were on the rebound having broken up with long-term partners.

"He is now back with his fiancee, continuing with that relationship,
and has no idea she has given birth to a child."

Judith Rowe QC, representing the baby's legal guardian, said that if
the woman's family could not help or were unsuitable, then the father and his family would be approached. Ms Rowe said the local authority believed the child should be brought up by the family if possible.

Lord Justice Thorpe, who led the panel of three judges, said: "That sounds doctrinaire. It is difficult to imagine a more dysfunctional family than this."

A court order prevents identification of the mother and child, the
local authority and where the case occurred. Judgment was reserved.

On a similar point in Re L (2007) was a case where the local authority needed guidance as to whether they should attempt to contact the natural father before placing the child for adoption. The mother claimed that she did not have any information about his identity of whereabouts. Initially Munby J had directed that the mother should be asked once more for information at a hearing, but as that did not result in anything concrete he concluded that nothing further should be done to pursue the father.

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