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(Family Division; His Honour Judge Fletcher; 29 September 2006)
The grandparents were not only unaware of the child's existence, but were also unaware of the 3-year relationship between the mother and the father; the father was 30 years older than the mother, and some 10 years older than the maternal grandfather. The mother feared a complete breakdown in her relationship with the maternal grandparents were the existence of the child to be exposed.
The court ruled that there was no family life between the child and any member of the extended family, particularly the grandparents. The relevant factors were: the secret nature of the relationship between the parents; the reasonableness of the mother's fear that her relationship with the maternal grandparents was in jeapordy; the relatively distant and fragile nature of the existing family relationships; and the risk that a placement with the maternal grandparents would expose the child to ongoing relationship problems. The potential for development of a family life if the child were to be cared for within the extended family was very doubtful and likely to lead to disruption of existing family relationships. The grandparents were not relevant relatives in relation to whom the local authority had a duty to disclose the plans for the child, within s 22(5)(d) of the Children Act 1989.
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