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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

21 AUG 2014

Re P (Step-Parent Adoption) [2014] EWCA Civ 1174

Re P (Step-Parent Adoption) [2014] EWCA Civ 1174
(Court of Appeal, Moore-Bick, McFarlane, Briggs LJJ, 15August 2014)

[The judicially approved judgment and accompanying headnote has now published in Family Law Reports [2015] 1 FLR 1327]

Adoption – Step-parent – Proportionality – No contact withbiological father – Whether the judge should have granted adoption orders

Please see the attached file below for the full judgment

The two children, aged 14 and 12, had no contact with eachof their Polish fathers. The mother had been granted permission to permanentlyrelocate to the UKin 2007 by the Polish court and since living here she had been in arelationship with a British man and they had lived together as a family. He nowsought to adopt the two children.

In considering the question of parental responsibility, themother and the younger child’s father had been married and, therefore, assumingthe legal position was the same in Poland as it was here, the judgeproceeded on the basis that he had parental responsibility. The father of theolder child was never married to the mother and, therefore, it was assumed hedid not have parental responsibility.

At first instance the step fathers’ application wasdismissed. In relation to the younger child, the judge found that the child’swelfare did not require the parent’s consent to be dispensed with and inrespect of the older child he was also not satisfied that the child’s welfarethroughout his life required an adoption order to be granted. The step fatherappealed.

The appeal was allowed and adoption orders were granted. Thekey to evaluating the child’s welfare throughout his or her life anddetermining whether to dispense with a parent’s consent was proportionality.Although the same statutory provisions applied to step parent adoptions as withadoptions following care proceedings, the manner in which they fell to beapplied differed. In step parent adoptions the level of interference withparental rights was lower and, therefore, more readily justified.

On the facts of this case the detriment caused by makingadoptions orders and extinguishing the rights of their biological fathers, inArt 8, European Convention terms was modest given the lack of contact. Thejudge had fallen into error in his evaluation of the balance of rights underArt 8 and therefore the overall proportionality of making the adoption orders.Furthermore, he had misinterpreted the statutory regime and the requirements ithad placed upon him.

There was nojustification in the authorities for the proposition that ‘required’ in everycase necessitated a finding that the child’s welfare would be prejudicedsignificantly if the adoption order were not made.

The fully referenced, judicially approved judgment and headnote will appear in a forthcoming issue of Family Law Reports. A detailed summary and analysis of the case will appear in Family Law.

Case No: B4/2014/0736

Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWCA Civ 1174
HHJ Jones

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 15/08/2014

Before :

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Re: P (A Child)

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Mr Robert Hornby (instructed by Humphrys & Co Solicitors) for the Appellant
Hearing date : 26 June 2014

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Lord Justice McFarlane:

Re P (Step-Parent Adoption) [2014] EWCA Civ 1174
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