A High Court judge has permitted the Adoption Authority to approve the adoption of a young girl by her stepfather without consulting with the birth father.
The girl was born in 2008 to a couple who were not married and whose relationship ended months later as a result of ongoing violence by the man towards the woman. She left him after an incident where he broke her jaw.
Between 2010 and 2014, the father had joint guardianship and access to the child which he availed of sporadically.
A District Court judge removed him as guardian in 2014 after an incident during an access visit when he sprained the child’s arm and tore ligaments in the mother’s arm. The child has not seen him since.
The mother had begun a relationship with another man when the child was aged three, they have since married, and the man has applied, with the mother’s consent, to adopt the child.
The mother made a statutory declaration she did not wish the natural father to be consulted about the adoption.
The Adoption Authority, having made a declaration of eligibility and suitability of the stepfather to adopt, applied to the High Court, as required by law, for an order allowing it approve the adoption without consultation with the natural father.
In a judgment published this week, Mr Justice John Jordan said the “paramount consideration” is the best interests of the child and he was satisfied it would be “entirely inappropriate” for the Authority to consult with the birth father about the adoption.
He was satisfied approval of this adoption was in the best interests of the child and that family life as such did not exist in a way that would engage the family life rights of the birth father under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He was satisfied this child, “for good reason”, does not have a relationship with her father and was traumatised by his physical assault on her and on her mother on the last time she saw him in 2014.
He accepted the child had not enjoyed access with her father, was in fear of him and there was physical and emotional abuse of the child by the father.
The evidence proves the father unfortunately had “very little understanding” of what family life meant or, if he did, he had no commitment to having a family life with this mother and child and had abrogated his obligations as a father.
There was “substantial” independent evidence supporting the mother’s allegations of physical and emotional abuse against the birth father, including reports of a social worker, a domestic violence support worker and a project worker in Barnardos, plus the making of a barring order and safety order.
The judge also took into account that the violent incident in 2014 effectively ended the birth father’s relationship with the child.
Other factors included the limited period of the father’s cohabitation with the child, his lack of adherence to access orders granted by the District Court, his sporadic take-up of access and the limited nature of that access, which had to be supervised.
There was also the child’s “alarming fears and anxieties” towards the father as set out in documents. On top of that was the fact the District Court had removed the birth father as the child’s guardian, that her stepfather had been appointed joint guardian with her mother, and the child had not seen the birth father since 2014.
The evidence was clear there was “no parental or filial bond” and no father-daughter relationship and rather a situation where the girl was afraid of her birth father, the judge said.