R v R (Parental Responsibility and Permanent Removal from the Jurisdiction)

Citation

[2011] EWHC 1535 (Fam); [2011] 2 F.L.R. 1132; [2011] Fam. Law 939

An authority dealing with when step-parent parental responsibility orders should be made. Although the “outgoing” step-father was a psychological parent (and had, until midway through the proceedings, been believed to be his biological parent as well), it was not in the child’s interests that PR should be granted. However a range of specific issue orders were appropriate to ensure an ongoing connection between the psychological parent and the child.
The only means by which H could obtain parental responsibility was under the Children Act 1989 s.4A(1)(b), which enabled the court to grant parental responsibility to a person who was not the child’s parent but who was married to the child’s parent. In normal circumstances, the beneficiary of such an order would be an incoming step-parent; the other situations in which an order might be made were likely to be limited. They might include the case of a much older child where the person concerned turned out at a late stage not to be a biological parent but who would continue, with the child’s approval, to carry out a full parental role. In G (Children) (Residence: Same Sex Partner), Re [2006] UKHL 43, [2006] 1 W.L.R. 2305, Baroness Hale had referred to “psychological parents”, Re G considered. H had undoubtedly been R’s psychological parent until R was nearly three and had continued to fulfil that role, albeit in a much diminished way through no fault of his own. He had limitless commitment to R and a strong desire to play as great a part as possible in his life. However, he was not R’s biological father, and it was not in R’s true interests to invest H with parental responsibility. That would place him at the heart of all future important decisions about R in a way that was likely to lead to conflict with W. It could not be said that H would play such an important role in R’s future development that it would be beneficial to R for H to have equal status with W. This was not a case in which the power under s.4A should be exercised for a purpose that was probably not intended. It was only by chance that the power existed at all; it would not have done so if H and W were already divorced, as well they might have been.

Stephen acted for the successful respondent mother, instructed by CRM Law.

Commentaries on the case are included starting at the following page references:

  • Bromley’s Family Law, pages 271 and 388
  •  Standley and Davies on Family Law, page 240
  • Herring, Probert, Gilmore, page 37
  • Conway: Family Law, page 74
    and in the following articles:
  • Blended rights? Fam. L.J. 2014, 137(Jun), 16-18, and Step-Parents: family or legal strangers? N.L.J. 2014, 164(7592), 9-10, and
  • How many parents does a child need? Fam. Law 2012, 42(Mar), 313- 318, and
  • Parental Responsibility Fam. Law 2011, 41(Sep), 939-940

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