The importance of the role of fathers in the lives of their children has been given more and more recognition by the family courts in recent years, as is evidenced by a case in which a mother was refused permission to move permanently to Australia with her three-year-old son because of his father's objections.
The former couple were married for less than three years and their son was only 18 months old when they separated. The mother was living on state benefits in a one-bedroom chalet with the boy, her new partner and their baby. Both she and her partner had offers of good jobs in Australia and were keen to relocate the family there.
A family judge accepted that the mother's wish to move to the other side of the world was genuine and that she was not motivated by a selfish desire to exclude her former husband from his son's life. However, she had in the past placed obstacles in the path of contact between father and son and the evidence suggested that maintaining her son's relationship with his father was a low priority for her.
In refusing the mother's application to remove the child from the UK, the judge noted that the father's opposition to the move was not driven by any ulterior motive but by his love for his son and concern for his welfare. The mother was managing financially and there was not an overriding economic need for her to move to Australia. The decision was difficult and finely balanced, but the judge concluded that the priority was to maintain the boy's precious attachments to his father and paternal family.