Fatherhood and Child Contact

August 15, 2012

Fatherhood and Child Contact

The Court of Appeal recently ruled in a case which asked whether fatherhood is sufficient to warrant contact with a child and decided that the answer is ‘no’.

The case was unusual. It involved a married couple who wanted to have a child but were unable to because the husband had previously had a vasectomy. They enlisted the ‘help’ of the husband’s best friend, who had intercourse on several occasions with the wife. This developed into a full-blown relationship and eventually resulted in her becoming pregnant and having a child, which was registered as the child of the married couple.

The wife’s relationship with the friend had ended, but he decided to apply for parental responsibility and contact with the child. The couple opposed the application. After he obtained a rectification of the child’s birth certificate to show him as the father, the court made a contact order in favour of the friend.

The husband and wife appealed against the order. At issue was the need to maintain the stability of the family relationship and the risk posed to this by regular contact with the friend. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and denied the natural father a contact order. The Court paid particular attention to the possible damage that contact might do over time to the relationship between the couple and the child.