A woman has been allowed to access the court files which detail her late father’s adoption.
In X (Adopted Child: Access To Court File), the woman sought information regarding her biological family after the death of her father in 2011.
He was born in 1929 and adopted in 1930 under the Adoption and Children Act 1926. Both the father’s adoptive parents are now also dead.
In a letter to the Bristol Family Court, the woman said she wanted to know “who [her] Dad was, who his mother was, where he was born” so that she could better understand who she was.
She also mentioned that her sister’s granddaughter “has epilepsy and is very disabled” so she wanted to know if the condition had been inherited.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said that Section 60 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 allows adopted adults to request information regarding their birth families.
As the woman was the child of an adopted person, this rule did not apply to her. Therefore, Section 79(4) of the 2002 Act was considered instead. This states that the court can give someone access to adoption records “in exceptional circumstances”.
While he ruled that the circumstances were not exceptional, Sir James cited Rule 14.24 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. This says official documents cannot be inspected without the court’s permission.
Under that rule, Sir James allowed the woman access to her father’s adoption records. He said that the fact that her father, his adoptive parents and, presumably, his birth mother were all dead was a factor in coming to his decision. As was the fact that the adoption took place over 84 years ago and that the woman’s motives were “entirely genuine and understandable”.
He added that there would be no “conditions or restrictions” on her access as he was “content to leave that to her good sense and discretion”.
To read the full judgment, click here.
In August, the Welsh government launched a consultation on possible changes to the adoption rules. The proposed changes would allow descendants of adopted people the right to access information regarding their biological family.
Photo of the Royal Courts of Justice by nomsaleena via Flickr