(Family Division, Roderic Wood J, 1 August 2013)
The mother of two half-siblings had been the victim of serious domestic violence including incidents of stabbing, punching and kicking some of which was witnessed by the children. The mother and children fled the home which was subsequently burgled and a police car placed outside the home for the family's protection was set on fire. The father was convicted and imprisoned.
The mother now sought a residence order in respect of the 4-year-old child, permission to change the child's forenames and family name and an order revoking the father's parental responsibility. The father, who was currently serving a prison sentence, did not oppose the applications and did not attend but informed the court that he was unable to find a legal representative as he did not qualify for legal aid.
The father's letter was not regarded as a full consent and therefore attempts were made by the court and Cafcass to contact him and arrange for his views to be represented but he refused to attend and declined to leave the prison. The Cafcass officer supported the mother's applications.
Reports on the 4-year-old child demonstrated that he had a number of emotional and social problems which required management at home and at school. The mother and children now lived at a confidential address and had taken security advice from the police. Their view was that upon the father's release from prison he would be likely to try and locate them presenting a serious risk.
The facts of the case militated in favour of granting the orders sought by the mother. The high threshold for terminating the father's parental responsibility had been met. Leaving him with parental responsibility would force the mother to continue to have dealings with him which would lead to profound instability for her with the inevitable consequence of a deterioration in arrangements for the children. In respect of a name change, the balance tipped in favour of granting permission in order to protect the integrity of the family home and the mother's care of him.
Although not strictly necessary it was preferable to make a residence order in order to recognise the reality of the care arrangements and to give the mother a sense of security as to the court's approval of the arrangements.