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26 AUG 2012

Leave to oppose an adoption: unhelpful legislation

Andrew Webb

Solicitor, Dutton Gregory LLP:

When the Adoption and Children Act (the act) came into force in 2005 it was designed to streamline and improve adoption practice and procedure with particular emphasis upon the removal of stress from prospective adopters in the court proceedings and the acceleration of the legal process. The introduction of the 'Placement Order' was heralded as a concept which would remove adopters from the uncertainty of subsequent litigation and enable courts to conduct adoption proceedings with expedition and without undue anxiety for adopters.

Respondent parents now need 'leave' to be able to oppose an adoption application as interpreted in the act at s 47 and by case law. Unfortunately the impact of the legislation is, whilst making it very difficult for a respondent parent to obtain 'leave', nevertheless to encourage a parent to pursue an avenue which most believed to be closed to them in any event. The effect is to draw out proceedings, lead parents into a process that they will almost certainly lose but which will create false hope, cause anxiety to adopters and children and incur more work for social workers and courts in rebutting the parents' case. It is argued that this was not the intention of the Placement Order and needs revision.

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