Father loses battle for daughter

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A man has lost a fight for custody of his motherless child after a High Court judge concluded that love "is not enough".

Mr Justice Keehan said the man "may" love his seven-year-old daughter and frequently said he loved her.

But the judge said the little girl needed more - and her father did not understand her needs or have the ability to meet them.

The man, who is in his mid-30s, asked to be allowed to care for his daughter after her mother died suddenly.

He wanted the little girl to live with him and his new partner in Manchester.

But the judge concluded that the youngster should be adopted by a maternal aunt and uncle who live in the United States - a plan put forward by local authority social workers.

Detail of the case has emerged in a written ruling following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London and Birmingham.

Mr Justice Keehan said the man had a son with his new partner - born 10 months after the girl's mother died.

The judge said the man was from Cameroon. He was deported in 2006 but returned to the UK in 2009 on a six-month family visa. The judge said he did not know whether immigration officials would give the man indefinite leave to remain.

He said the man lied to social workers about his personal circumstances during litigation.

The judge said the people involved could not be identified.

"I do not doubt that in his own way he deeply loves (his daughter)," said Mr Justice Keehan.

"Most importantly, there is the extent to which this father can meet the emotional needs of this child. He may love her, as he did frequently say he loves her. Sadly, in life that is not enough.

"This child needs to have her emotional needs recognised and met. She needs to be the centre of attention so that her needs are not missed.

"I regret to find that the father does not begin to evince any understanding of what those needs are nor does he evince any ability to meet them."

He said the man had given a "heartless" answer to one question when giving evidence.

"When I heard him reply in answer to the fact that (the girl) has been through a lot in her short life, I thought it heartless on the part of the father to reply 'Me, too'," said the judge.

"It is a powerful and illuminating example of the approach of this father to this matter, which is to his needs and his rights and what he wants, and coming a very poor second is what this precious little girl needs.

"Accordingly, applying the welfare check list and applying the paramountcy principle of deciding what is in (the girl's) best interests, I have no hesitation in finding that it would be wholly contrary to (her) short-term and long-term welfare best interests to be cared for by her father."

A lawyer who specialises in family cases said later that courts could be faced with delicate balancing exercises.

"Other fathers in this tragic situation must not take it for granted that they are the best person to care for their motherless child long term. They must realise that there is a real possibility that the courts will approve other long-term carers or even adopters," said barrister Clare Renton.

"An adoption order is a draconian order because it cuts the father out of the child's life. However, they do happen. The judge was right that the emotional and physical needs of a seven year old girl who has lost her mother may be complex and challenging

She added: "The court carries out a delicate balancing exercise and will have decided that this was the best option for the child's long-term welfare. With his uncertain immigration status a further complication, the placement with a maternal aunt and uncle in the United States was held to be the best option."

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