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Adoption application fails because man had not spent enough time with the child

In a recently published case, the High Court rejected an adoption application because the man had not spent enough time with the child.

The case of Re X concerned a British citizen who has spent a number of years working in the Middle and Far East. However, he still owned properties in this country and planned to retire here. His ‘domicile’ (residence for legal purposes) therefore remained the UK.

He applied to adopt his fiancée’s 15 year-old daughter from a previous relationship, under section 51(2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. This states that:

“An adoption order may be made on the application of one person who has attained the age of 21 years if the court is satisfied that the person is the partner of a parent of the person to be adopted.”

Sitting in the Family Division, Mrs Justice Theis said the man’s application met the preliminary requirement of section 47 of the Act. This sets out legal requirement for making adoption orders.

However, the judge noted, the child had not lived with the prospective father for a period of at least six months prior to the application, as required by section 42 (3) of the order. This reads:

“If the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of a parent of the child, the condition is that the child must have had his home with the applicant or, as the case may be, applicants at all times during the period of six months preceding the application.”

The girl’s mother had moved to live with the man in the country where he worked, and she attended boarding school. The man was in regular contact with the girl and had taken on financial responsibility for her, but had only spent around a week with her in the six months before the application, and that did not meet the requirements of the Act, the judge ruled.

However, she admitted to “conflicting emotions” about not granting the order. The judge noted that:

“I have no reason to doubt that it would be in the best interests of X to be adopted by the applicant.”

But these concerns could not justify failure to meet the “gateway” requirements of section 42 (3).

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    Well, this is bizarre, because the 15 year old girl and her mother would be at a massive advantage if the guy officially takes responsibility for her. I figure the Judge is following the rules but if the daughter is at boarding school I don’t see how the situation can be rectified.

    From the man’s point of view he may have dodged a bullet, because now if he breaks up acrimoniously with the mother he retains the option to help the child as he sees fit. In fact it is hard to see what upside there is for him to adopt her – if she dumps him does he REALLY think he is going to have any say in the 15 year old’s upbringing ?
    The mother will inevitably end up making all the key decisions for her daughter over the next 3 years.

  2. Dana says:

    What happened to a Judge’s discretion! Another stupid judgement! Shame, I have seen some of this judges other judgements and they were better!

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