The rise of the casual daddy

Hugh Grant says he couldn't be happier about his latest role: being a father without a relationship. He's not the only one...

The story of Hugh Grant's fatherhood could have gone two ways. On learning that the Chinese actress Tinglan Hong, with whom he enjoyed a brief relationship earlier this year, was pregnant, Grant could have played the cad. He wouldn't have been the first to do so – Eddie Murphy was famously ungracious in fatherhood, initially denying responsibility for his daughter with the former Spice Girl Melanie Brown. So, too, was Boris Becker, who reportedly accused the child's mother of being a "gold digger". Yesterday, Justin Bieber's management issued a rebuttal of fan Mariah Yeater's claim to have given birth to his child, though paternity tests have yet to be taken. And, of course, Grant's former partner Elizabeth Hurley – with whom the actor remains close friends – was publicly forced into taking DNA tests by Steve Bing, who refused to acknowledge the one-time couple's son, Damian.

On-screen, it's a role with which Grant is only too familiar. But off-screen he has followed a different script. Grant – unlike Bing, Becker and Murphy – has played the gent. Instead of denials or accusations, he's issued a glowing statement welcoming his new daughter into the world. He is, his spokesperson says, "delighted". He "couldn't be happier and more supportive". Of course, the proof of that is in the pudding – but, at this stage, the ingredients look good. Hong has moved into a house in Fulham, near Grant's, and the actor has long spoken of wanting to be a father. In fulfilling this ambition, Grant has become the latest in a string of high-profile "casual fathers" – dads who may not still be with the mother of their child, but seem to be taking to the role.

When Jude Law was named as the father of Samantha Burke's baby, the story was reported with a frenzy similar to the one that has greeted Grant's bundle of joy. Burke, a model, posed for pictures in Hello! before Law had visited. A merry divorcé, father of three children from his marriage to Sadie Frost and now something of a playboy, his subsequent silence was greeted with a hefty dose of scepticism. But it seems Law has come good. There has been no mudslinging, no public acrimony. The parents have come to an agreement and appear to be sticking to it.

Likewise, the American actor Ryan Phillippe became a father after an off-and-on relationship with the actress Alexis Knapp. He was present at his child's birth and the couple have come to an amicable agreement. And Benicio Del Toro, who learned of his impending fatherhood after splitting from Rod Stewart's daughter Kimberly, has been the model of responsibility.

Ideally, when it comes to Grant, the "casual" moniker will be a misleading one. "The importance of a father's role is paramount," says Andrew Watson, a parenting expert and author of Down To Earth with a Bump: The Diary of a First-Time Dad. "Studies reiterate it again and again. It affects the child's self esteem and academic achievement. Children with involved fathers are less likely to be associated with drugs and crime." With parents living apart, it can be difficult to obtain the right sort of relationship – but there's no reason to think it isn't possible. "It would have to be a pretty special arrangement to make it work," Watson says. "But in principle, it's entirely possible. And I'm sure that with someone of Hugh Grant's means, there will be resources available that help considerably."

Given the bilateral way in which the birth has been announced, it seems safe to assume that Grant will be sharing these resources with his daughter's mother. In situations like these there's rarely any need to involve the courts. Quite aside from the benefits of avoiding adversarialism, this option is likely to provide some material benefit to the child, too.

"If the parents aren't agreeing on the terms of their relationship, the first post of call would be the Child Support Agency," David Osborne, a barrister specialising in marital law, says. "Then it becomes a balancing act between the mother's needs and the father's income." Requests such as private security or schooling – potentially preferable given the child's likely role in the public eye – may not always be given the benefit of the doubt: "It's about the ability to give a stable upbringing, not to freeload."

Thus far, then, things look good for Grant Jnr. With her father publicly committed to maintaining a role in her life and her parents on seemingly good terms, she might be destined to lead a charmed existence. Still, there are a few golden rules to follow. "When fathering from a distance, consistency is key," Watson says. "Let your child know what to expect and stick to it. Short, regular visits are better than long and infrequent ones. When you're with them, give your undivided attention – remove any obstacles that could prevent that. And taking time off work to spend with them may mean there is less money in the bank for the ever-increasing bills, but it is an investment of another sort."

With Grant living just around the corner, his daughter is likely to see plenty of him – but for parents who live further apart, there are other ways to keep up relations. "Do everything you can to maintain a presence – send regular photos, Skype, pick up the phone." Done right, Grant's unexpected fatherhood might just prove the making of him. Something of a man about town, he has long been pictured in the paper more often than he might like – be it for his high-profile relationships with beautiful women, his late-night indiscretions or his reputation as the ultimate commitment-phobe. Aged 51, he has now been obliged to commit, big time. And it's a move that can pay dividends.

"It's all out there for him," Watson says. "It is a cliché, but the benefits of fatherhood are enormous. You gain a better understanding of relationships, see what the other half is like. You learn new skills. You're more engaged with the world around you. He's got some great days ahead."

Distant relatives: The reluctant fathers

Eddie Murphy The comedian's relationship with the former Spice Girl Melanie Brown received no shortage of public attention. Still, the comedian felt moved to distance himself from Brown when she claimed she was pregnant with his child. "I don't know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test," he told one journalist. Charming.

Boris Becker Becker conceived his daughter Anna during a (very) brief encounter at the high-end restaurant Nobu. He was informed of the fact by fax, said Anna's mother, Angela Ermakova. Comparing the tennis star to a "runaway train" she has claimed he accused her of going after his money.

Steve Bing In the ultimate unchivalrous act, Bing claimed he couldn't be sure that he was father of Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian, since "the relationship hadn't been exclusive". Still, DNA tests proved that Hurley was, in fact, correct in her assumption. It is not known whether Bing has a relationship with his son.

Justin Bieber? Yesterday Justin Bieber's management shifted into crisis mode, following claims in an American tabloid that a fan named Mariah Yeater had given birth to the pop star's child. Yeater has asked Bieber to submit to DNA tests, claiming they shared a tryst last year. He has yet to co-operate.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

    Campaign Manager/Email Marketing/Direct Marketing

    £160 - £180 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: CAMPAIGN MANAGER -...

    Business Studies Teacher

    £21084 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are looking for a...

    Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

    £400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice