A father is one step closer to forging a relationship with his two-year-old daughter after judges at the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) ruled he should be given the chance to prove he can take care of her.
The appellant discovered that he was the child's biological father earlier this year. Although he has not yet had a relationship with the child, he applied to be considered as a potential carer for her after the local authority launched proceedings to place her for adoption due to her mother's inability to look after her.
However, his application was dismissed by a family judge who said the child’s welfare was already jeopardised by delays in deciding her future and an assessment of the appellant’s parenting skills could not be carried out quickly enough.
That meant only one other relative, a maternal aunt, would be considered as an alternative to an adoption placement outside the child’s natural family.
However, the family’s judge’s decision has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal, paving the way for the appellant to have his parenting abilities assessed.
Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lady Justice Black, said that the family judge had to weigh up the possibility that the appellant could offer the child a home against the negative impact of further delays in deciding the child’s future.
The appellant discovered that he was the child's biological father earlier this year and swiftly applied to the court to be considered as a potential carer.
However, there was at that stage no suitable professional available to carry out a parenting assessment and, although the local authority said it could arrange an assessment, it would take up to 14 weeks to do so.
The local authority argued such a delay would not be in the best interests of the child, as she had been in foster care for over a year and any further delay would ‘keep her in suspense’.
Accepting the local authority’s argument, the family judge dismissed the appellant’s application to be considered as a carer for the child.
At the Court of Appeal, the appellant’s lawyers argued that decision was wrong because it left him with no hope of ever having a relationship with his daughter.
The appellant’s lawyers also said that they had found an independent social worker who can assess his parenting skills within four weeks.
Allowing the appeal, and overturning the family judge's decision, Lord Justice Thorpe said the situation had changed since the previous hearing and ruled that there should now be an assessment of the appellant’s caring abilities.
Lord Justice Thorpe said: "I have the greatest misgivings about interfering with the decision of a circuit judge of very great experience and very great ability in managing these difficult cases with a firm hand.
"However, the situation before us is distinctly different than it was when it appeared before the judge."