SPECIFIC ISSUE ORDERS: Re L (Identity of Birth Father) [2008] EWCA Civ 1388

14 JAN 2009

(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Lawrence Collins and Goldring LJJ; 13 November 2008)

The father had not seen the child since the child was 2 months old; the child, who suffered from ADHD and possibly Asperger's, was now 15 years old. The father sought contact with the child, who had been brought up to believe that his stepfather was his biological parent. The court refused contact, but the issue arose as to when the child should be informed of his true paternity. The mother wished to wait until the end of the next academic year; the alternative was to tell the child as soon as possible. For unexplained reasons, the mother did not want the child's psychiatrist to become involved, therefore a different child psychiatrist was appointed as a joint expert.He provided a paper-based assessment that led the judge to order the mother to inform the child about his true paternity before the start of the new academic year. The mother appealed.

Although none of mother's grounds of appeal justified allowing the appeal, the court had a fundamental misgiving concerning the exclusion of the evidence of the child's psychiatrist. The welfare decision had been taken on incomplete evidence, without the most crucial source of evidence. The mother's wishes had denied the court of a contribution that was, at minimum, highly relevant and potentially decisive. The child's psychiatrist should investigate and produce an evaluation for consideration by the court below.

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