This is London

Judge backs dads in custody cases

This is London
November 26, 2001

Fathers fighting for the right to care for their children have received a major boost from one of the country's senior judges.

High Court Family Division judge Mr Justice Cazalet has made it clear in an Appeal Court ruling that judicial opinion, which traditionally favoured children from broken marriages being cared for by their mothers, has now changed.

Ruling that the right person to bring up a two-year-old boy from Cambridge is his father, the judge left no doubt that "father power" is now a factor to be reckoned with in courts and that mothers cannot expect to get their children as a matter of course.

He made it clear that whereas once stereotyped views of a father's home life role almost inevitably resulted in children of broken marriages going to their mothers, those days are now in the past.

Over the past decade increasing equality of the sexes in the chores of married life has resulted in fathers becoming much better equipped to cope with bringing up children, if necessary on their own - and that situation has been accepted by judges. Upholding a Cambridge County Court ruling that the boy in question should remain with his father, the judge said: "Fathers are much better equipped to look after children nowadays than they were some 10 years ago."

He was backed in his view by Lord Justice Hirst, who said he considered the father in this case is the right and most trustworthy parent for the child to be with.

The judge felt that if the mother, whom he branded as unreliable and untrustworthy, was given the child the likelihood was that the father would lose contact with his son.

In her appeal, the mother claimed that at the county court last September, Judge O'Brien had been wrong in his view that letting her have the boy would result in the father being deprived of contact.

Her counsel, Richard Cross, argued that even if there had been any basis for those fears, the judge could have used the court's powers to secure compliance with any contact order.

He said any concerns the judge had about contact were out of all proportion to what might have been reasonable.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 26 November 1998