James Barton is the brother of John Barton and father of Pete, Ross, Finn and Adam Barton (who was originally thought to be John's son). Following an argument with his son Ross that resulted in him leaving home, James arrived in Emmerdale in an attempt to patch things up with his son after being told of his whereabouts by his sister-in-law Moira. However, Ross was adamant a reunion wasn't on the cards and James left.
It is suggested over a period of weeks that James has feelings for Moira, and it is later revealed they had a dalliance many years ago. The night before a meeting about the farm's potential supermarket contract, James tells Moira that he still has feelings for her and believes she does for him too. She is angry and the following day she tells her boyfriend Cain Dingle.
In 2014, James begins to believe that his nephew Adam, the son of his late brother John, may, in fact, be his son, as he had a one night stand with Moira months before Adam's birth. Moira is eager to ignore James' questions, but he is adamant that Adam is his son. James secretly gets DNA proof that Adam is his son and tells Moira, but she begs him not to tell anyone. The first person he tells is Chas Dingle. Later, whilst watching an old video of the family, Moira and James are seen to be arguing in the background and it is later revealed that James is Adam's biological father.
"You haven't changed." (First Line)
"Oh, there's plenty going on in her head that I don't care about. You take up so much of her time with your pathetic little dramas! Why don't you man up and face what you've done, instead of hiding behind your mummy? At least I've told people what I've done. Do the same, you coward." - to Aaron Livesy right before Aaron smashes a bottle of wine over his head.