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Court orders that boy should live with his grandmother

The Supreme Court has ruled that a four-year-old boy should live with his grandmother rather than his father.

In reaching its decision, the court stated that a child’s welfare must take precedence over the interests of the biological parents.

The boy’s parents had separated before he was born and he had lived all his life with his grandmother. His mother had left the grandmother’s home shortly after the birth.

The grandmother was granted a residence order in 2006. Two years later, the father applied for a residence order which was eventually granted by the High Court. The judge referred to earlier landmark cases which had established that in the "ordinary way" it would be in a child’s best interest to be reared by his parents.

The judge then ruled that the level of care the father could provide was good enough and so it did not matter whether or not the grandmother could provide something better. That decision was later upheld by the Court of Appeal.

However, the Supreme Court has now ruled in favour of the grandmother. It held that while in the "ordinary way" children tended to thrive best with their parents, many residence and contact disputes did not follow the ordinary way. This was such a case.

In giving the court’s ruling, Lord Kerr said: "The court’s quest is to determine what is in the best interests of the child, not what might constitute a second best but supposedly adequate alternative.

"He has lived virtually all of his young life with his grandmother. He has naturally formed a strong bond with her. There is reason to apprehend that, if that bond is broken, his current stability will be threatened."

Each case must be taken on its individual merits, of course, but this ruling will help to strengthen claims by grandparents to care for their grandchildren in certain circumstances.

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