Family Court Files: father stripped of parental responsibility after raping ex-partner

The mother’s allegation of rape had originally been dismissed in error before the case was re-heard on appeal

A father who was found to have raped his ex-partner after applying to court to spend more time with their son has been stripped of his parental responsibility and ordered to pay £30,000 towards the mother’s legal fees.

Giving the final judgment in a protracted case, Judge Clive Baker also ordered that the boy’s surname should be changed to that of his mother’s.

The mother, who was accused of “parental alienation” by her ex, said she felt “huge relief” at finally being listened to. Her allegation of rape had originally been put to the family court in 2021 and dismissed in error before the case was re-heard on appeal.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) first reported on the case in October after overturning an embargo on a transparency order issued under a family court reporting pilot.

The previous month, Baker had made a finding of rape against the father, as well as child abuse at the “lower end of the spectrum”. He also found the father to be financially controlling.

The father disputed the findings in a statement filed in December. He denied raping his ex-partner, who he said had fabricated allegations and alienated his son from him.

The mother had said she was disappointed that no firm findings of gaslighting or coercive control were noted but was overall in agreement with the judge’s decision.

Before proceedings last year, the boy was having supervised contact with his father, but contact was suspended following the fact-find hearing in April. The mother said her son has since been “noticeably happier, relaxed and content in himself”.

The boy, who is described as having an “innate kindness”, met with his newly appointed children’s guardian in October. She reported that he felt unsafe in his father’s care and had told her: “I don’t want any contact [with him].”

Ahead of a two-day final hearing in December, the mother applied to the court for her son to have no contact with his father and for her son’s surname to be changed to her own. She also asked the court to consider restricting or removing her ex-partner’s parental responsibility.

A statement filed on her behalf by her barrister, Charlotte Proudman, said: “[The father’s] continued – or potential – involvement in [the child’s] life is harmful. The findings are significant and continue to impact on the mother. The child, given the discussion with the guardian, would be in a better position if the order [to remove parental responsibility] was made than no order at all.”

Responding to the mother’s application, the father – who represented himself in court – said the mother has never respected his paternal rights. He said Proudman has “egged her on in this case”.

Baker said he was entirely satisfied that the father’s treatment of the mother had caused her “significant, substantial and long-lasting psychological harm”. He ordered that there should be no contact between the father and the boy.

“The overall picture, which now includes the father’s reflections … leads me to conclude the father’s continued involvement in the child’s life would be, for the foreseeable future, continued court-sanctioned abuse of the mother,” he wrote.

The judge explained changing a child’s surname was something the courts were generally reluctant to do – especially in the context of parental disputes – but deemed it appropriate in this case.

Baker explained: “... I consider it reasonable for the mother to ask that she not have imposed upon her as primary carer a child who uses on a daily basis the name of someone who raped her.”

Parental responsibility – which mothers automatically have, and fathers have if they are married to the mother or named on the birth certificate – can be removed only by an order from the family courts. It is seen as one of the court’s more draconian powers, but the judge found it proportionate in this case.

Baker said it would mean the father could not access the child’s school reports or medical records.

He also issued a barring order preventing the father from making further court applications until the child’s 16th birthday.

The judge went on to dismiss an application by the mother made against the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service for costs but ordered the father to pay £30,000 towards the mother’s legal fees.

The mother said she felt relieved about the final judgment but claimed that her ex was still financially controlling her by failing to disclose his true income to the Child Maintenance Service – a claim he denies.

She said: “The barring order is peace of mind, and the name change is good for my son. It’s just a huge relief to draw a line under proceedings.”

The mother said the father’s response to the findings “beggared belief”. She felt it displayed “an absolute lack of reflection. He cannot see the harm he has caused – he’s got no insight, or he is choosing not to show it, which is worse.”

The mother praised the family court reporting initiative in her final statement. She said: “Without such pilots, the family court may remain surrounded by secrecy for a long time, further traumatising children and safe parents as they battle allegations of parental alienation in a system that appears to be accountable to no one.”

She told TBIJ: “I feel like I’ve finally been listened to and had a fair hearing with this new judge. But for true justice, you need a level playing field, and I still feel hugely disadvantaged at having been dragged through the system the way I have.”

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Reporter: Hannah Summers
Bureau Local editor: Gareth Davies
Deputy editors: Chrissie Giles and Katie Mark
Editor: Franz Wild
Production editors: Emily Goddard and Alex Hess
Fact checker: Natalie Bloomer

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Subject:

  • Family courts
  • Justice system
  • Domestic violence

Area:

  • Local