Obviously, we all have different views about how best to bring up our children. There is no ‘one way’ of approaching the task, and that is especially so when one considers how diverse families can be, for example in their different social and cultural ways. However, one thing is constant: that we must put the welfare of the child above our own, sometimes narrow, ideas of what is best for them.
This was clearly demonstrated in the case SA v BO, the judgment of which was handed down by His Honour Judge Lochrane in the Chelmsford County Court, and published on Monday. The case concerned a father’s application for a child arrangements order which would entail his sixteen year old daughter moving from her mother’s home in Essex to live with him in Warrington. He sought the move, despite the fact that his daughter had always lived with her mother, that his daughter had not seen him for three years and that his daughter had expressed a clear and strong wish not to live with him.
How, in such circumstances, could a father want to pursue such an application? In short, he considered that he could provide better for his daughter from a material point of view, he felt that his daughter was not being encouraged to achieve her full potential, that she should be brought up as a ‘born again’ Christian, as he was, and that she was being denied his heritage (he is of black Nigerian origin and the mother is white British). As to his daughter’s objections, he simply maintained that they were the result of ‘malign influences’ from the maternal family.
The problem with all of that was that he just could not see his daughter’s point of view, instead seeking to blindly force his views upon her. It was this “I know best” attitude, in fact, that had caused the rift between him and his daughter, rather than any maternal influence. Yes, the mother’s household may not be able to boast quite the same level of material “benefits” which his might but, as Judge Lochrane said, that is a “very dubious disadvantage”. As to his daughter’s future, he clearly had unrealistic expectations, perhaps resulting from a feeling of superiority over the mother. For her part, the daughter found her father’s frequent discussions about his faith difficult (she has no particular faith), and she was aware that he blamed her mother for what he perceived to be the deficiencies in her education, both academic and cultural.
In short, there was a complete disconnect between the father’s outlook and the welfare of his daughter. As Judge Lochrane said, the father’s application was “utterly devoid of any discernible merit”. This should have been quite clear to him, but it was not, and he was determined to proceed.
In fact, the father pointed out to Judge Lochrane more than once in the course of giving evidence that he expected the Court to “do the right thing”, regardless of the expressed views of his daughter. Tellingly, Judge Lochrane had this to say:
“[The father] purports to place the decision to “do the right thing” in the hands of the Court as if, somehow, he is doing the right thing by doing so. It is in fact an abdication of his parental responsibility which is designed to make him feel better about a decision which any sensible and sensitive parent would have realised long ago is completely inevitable, indeed should have been obvious before he started these proceedings. Any responsible father would have listened to what his daughter is saying and realised that this was, on a number of different levels, a singularly inappropriate way of setting about achieving what he thought might be best for his child. He has, of course, had many opportunities during the course of the proceedings to open his eyes to the truth and spare her this pain and, with apparent stubborn indifference, refused to take any of them.”
It hardly needs saying, but Judge Lochrane had no hesitation in dismissing the father’s application.
The full report of SA v BO can be read here.