The High Court has terminated a man’s legal responsibility for his children after he was imprisoned for repeated domestic violence.
A v D concerned the mother of two half siblings. Her partner, the father of one of the children, had been violent to her on several occasions, and the children had witnessed some of these incidents. Eventually she fled her home with the children, and the building was then burgled. A police car stationed outside the building in response to her concerns was set on fire. The man was arrested and jailed.
With her former partner now in prison, the woman went to court and applied for a residence order, specifying that the man’s four-year old child should live with her. She also applied to change the child’s names– given names and surname – and asked the court to end the father’s parental responsibility (legal rights as a parent).
She was now living in a secret address and had taken security advice from the police. The man’s four year old child, meanwhile, had developed emotional and social problems.
The jailed father did not oppose the application and said he would not attend the hearing. He did, however, write to the court to say he not quality for legal aid and so could not hire a solicitor to represent him.
However, he had not clearly expressed consent, as is normally required by law, so court officials and Cafcass attempted to contact him in jail and offer to have his views represented. But he still refused to co-operate.
The Cafcass officer assigned to the case, meanwhile, supported the woman’s application.
Sitting at the Family Division, Mr Justice Roderic Wood said the circumstances of the case were such that it would be right to approve the mother’s applications. When the man left jail, he was likely to try and locate the mother and her children, putting them at serious risk. If he retained parental responsibility, they would still have to deal with him, which would be highly disruptive. Changing the children’s names would help to protect their new family home.
Granting the mother a residence order would provide legal recognition for the reality of the family’s new situation, and provide the mother with some sense of security.