‘Cruelly deceived’ father loses

Posted: 30th April 2013

A 'cruelly deceived' father, who has never seen his five year-old son after the boy’s mother denied his paternity, has had his hopes of building a relationship with the boy dashed by the Court of Appeal. Despite recognising the father’s ‘bitter heartache’, the court ruled that it would not be in the boy’s best interests to further delay his adoption.

The father, who had had a brief affair with the boy’s mother, only discovered his paternity following a DNA test when his son was aged four. The mother had insisted that he was not the father and he only began to make inquiries after his sister saw a photo of the boy, referred to as 'C' in court, and spotted the family resemblance.RCJ

The boy was taken from his mother by social services when he was three days old because she was incapable of caring for him. He was placed with adopters in November 2010; however finalisation of the adoption was delayed after the truth about the boy’s paternity emerged.

The father had fought through the courts in the hope that he or his sister would be allowed to bring up his son. His application to become a party to the adoption proceedings was rejected and he was in the process of challenging that decision in the Court of Appeal when a final adoption order was made by a family judge in April 2012.

Ruling on the father’s appeal against that order, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, said: "Recognising the bitter heartache that this must cause a father who, it would seem, was cruelly deceived by the mother of his child, I was in the end entirely satisfied that his appeal had to be dismissed. Standing back from the detail, the reality is that the father has no relationship with C, indeed he has never even seen him, and that C has now been settled for over two years with the adopters. How can we, how can any judge, take the risk of disturbing that?"

Observing that the adopters had ‘been through the mill, Sir James, sitting with Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Aikens, said that the boy was deeply attached to them, having never known his father or any other family, and it was in his best interests to remain in their care and to be legally recognised as their son.

The judge was critical of the fact that the adoption order was made whilst the father still had an appeal pending. He said: "I cannot part from this case without expressing my very great concerns about what it reveals about our system. The history of events...makes for depressing and profoundly worrying reading.

"This is not, I stress, necessarily a criticism of those involved, most of whom did what was required of them; it is a criticism of a system whose inadequacies and potential for catastrophe have here been all too starkly exposed. No humanly devised system can ever be fool proof but we must do everything to ensure as best we can that future catastrophes are prevented."