The Telegraph

19 April 2002

Custody ruling deals a blow to house husbands

By Matt Born
The Telegraph

THE principle that children should be raised by their mothers won the overt backing of the Court of Appeal yesterday after it rejected a house husband's attempt to win custody of his two children.

The father, who had raised the children in their £1 million home while his wife enjoyed a successful career on a salary of £300,000, argued that he was the victim of sex discrimination.

But the court refused him leave to appeal against a High Court decision which granted custody to his estranged wife.

Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Buxton, said that despite the "unusual" role reversals in this case, they could not ignore the "realities" of the "very different" traditional functions of men and women.

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had wanted the children to live with him in London while his wife, the family breadwinner, continued to maintain them.

He also opposed her plans to give up her career and move hundreds of miles away with the children, who are both aged under six. Richard Tott, the father's barrister, asked the court to imagine the situation in reverse.

He said that if a male breadwinner proposed giving up his job, taking his children out of private education, moving far from London, and replacing the mother as the primary carer, "his application would be looked at with extreme scepticism".

But in his ruling, Lord Justice Thorpe said that this submission seemed "to ignore the realities involving the different roles and functions of men and women".

The judges heard that after the couple split up last year in "fraught circumstances" each had applied for custody.

The husband moved out of the family home, while the mother cared for the children briefly. However, they soon reached an agreement to share time with the children. The husband moved to a nearby rented house, paid for by the mother.

But the mother now wanted to give up work in order to spend more time with her children.

His belief that her desire was genuine was the decisive factor in rejecting the father's claim, Lord Justice Thorpe said. He said it was "not uncommon" nowadays for those who have "sacrificed the opportunity to provide full-time care for their children in favour of a highly competitive profession" to think again about their priorities.

The judge added: "[They] question the purpose of all that striving and whether they should re-evaluate their lives before the children have grown too old to benefit."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.