Ordinarily, a parent with parental responsibility is entitled to an involvement in any Court proceedings, concerning a child for whom they have parental responsibility. A parent with parental responsibility is an automatic party to proceedings. The presumption of the Court is that unless the opposite is proved, the involvement of a parent in the life of the child will further that child’s welfare.
The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the right to family life.
However, there are circumstances when it is right for there to be an exception to this and that a parent with parental responsibility not be notified of Court proceedings. An example is that of a father who has had no involvement with their child for many years and the child (now a teenager) is expressing firm, clear views that they do not wish their father to be told of the proceedings or to be given any information about them.
In such a case, the Court has the power to grant an exception from the rules, which would require the father to be given notice of the proceedings – but this power is said to be something that should only be exercised in highly exceptional circumstances.
The Court has to undertake a balancing act of considering the father’s right to family life and the young person’s right to private family life. Arguments will need to be put forward to demonstrate that the young person’s right to private family life outweigh those of the father in the example that I given. Factors, such as the history and context, as well as the strength of the young person’s views and wishes are going to be relevant, as well as the potential risk of emotional harm if the Court were to decide against that young person’s views.
I have recent experience of successfully presenting an argument to the Court that a father, with parental responsibility, should not be notified of proceedings in the context of the young person who I was representing’s strongly held views that they did not wish their father to know the proceedings, which the Local Authority had brought.
Andrew Barton is a partner in the family law team at Stephens Scown in Exeter. To discuss this or any other divorce issue contact Andrew, please call 01392 210700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org