The partner of a Polish woman living in the UK has won his legal bid to adopt her two children from previous relationships.
In Re P, the mother had lived in the UK since 2007 with her two children – a boy, now aged 14, and his 12 year-old sister. Both were born in Poland to different fathers. She was given permission by the Polish family courts to relocate.
Once settled in this country, the mother began a new relationship with a British man.
Sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, Lord Justice McFarlane explained:
“Since that time, some seven years ago, the couple have lived together with the children as a settled family unit.”
In January this year, the British man, referred to as ‘Mr TMI’ in the judgement, applied to adopt his partner’s children, with her full consent.
The judge examined the nature of each child’s relationship with their fathers. The mother and the Polish father of the older child had not been married, so the judge proceeded on the basis that he did not have parental (legal) responsibility for the boy. The situation was reversed in relation to his sister – the mother and her father had been married so the judge assumed that he did have parental responsibility, as he would under English law.
Nevertheless, he ruled against the adoption. The welfare of both children did not require adoption, he declared, and the welfare of the youngest child also did not require the consent of her father to be dispensed with.
The stepfather successfully appealed. Lord Justice McFarlane stressed the importance of ‘proportionality’ when making decisions regarding adoption and welfare. When step parents sought to adopt children, there was less interference in parental rights than occurred in adoption by strangers and therefore legal restrictions could be less stringent.
Lord Justice McFarlane said:
“There is a qualitative difference between these two options in terms of the degree to which the outcome will interfere with the [European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8] rights to family life of the child and his parents; adoption by strangers being at the extreme end of the spectrum of interference and adoption by a family member being at a less extreme point on the scale. The former option is only justified when ‘nothing else will do’, whereas the latter option, which involves a lower degree of interference, may be more readily justified.”
Both parents had no contact with their natural fathers for a number of years, so there was only minimal legal detriment to them in allowing the adoptions to go forward.
Therefore the adoption orders would be granted.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo by Emiliano Horcada via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence