The High Court has given a couple permission to adopt a child, despite the fact that they separated since their application began.
The child is three years old and had been placed in local authority care from birth. After spending some initial time in foster care, this child has been with the prospective adopters from an early age. Sadly, the parents have now separated but both wish to proceed with the adoption despite this fact.
Sitting at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Moylan had to make a decision as to whether they should both be allowed to adopt the child in the circumstances.
In many cases, a child at the age of three, if not adopted at this stage, is less likely to be adopted in the future. Statistics show that once children pass a certain age they are far less likely to be adopted than a younger child of around two years old or younger. This is usually because prospective adopters are more keen on adopting younger children so that they are able to experience the full life of a child including the many important developmental stages that take place over the early years. Children over the age of around four are therefore more likely to be facing long term foster care.
Whilst there are many wonderful and caring foster parents and families in this country, there are also many children who find themselves passed from family to family over the years which does not provide them with the stability they need.
Family lawyers constantly deal with warring separated parents who cannot agree on the care of their child. They can argue over anything from where the child should spend the majority of his or her time to what the child should be fed for breakfast. It is a very sad situation, not only for the parents who were usually once happy, but also for the child who can very often feel stuck in the middle and facing a choice between parents.
This is not a situation that any of us want to see and so it is entirely understandable that eyebrows are raised at the thought of a child being adopted by separated parents. Alarm bells begin to ring about the usual disputes that have the potential to arise and one has to question whether it really is in the best interests of a child to be adopted by parents who are divorced or divorcing.
However, there are many success stories where parents who are separating deal with the difficulties of divorce or separation without this impacting on the child.
With divorce rates now so high in the UK so many children are placed in the position whereby they face the transition of having one family home to having two separate homes. It is therefore not an unusual situation. With the recent coming into force of section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 on 22nd October, which confirms the presumption that parental involvement in the life of a child will further a child’s welfare, why should the Judge have decided that only the woman should proceed with the adoption? If this child has lived with and been raised by both parties for a significant period of her life then surely this presumption should still apply?
The Judge’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. In doing so, he is obliged to consider all of the circumstances of the case and must consider the “welfare checklist” which includes, amongst other considerations, the ability of each parent to meet his or her needs and the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances.
If both parents are capable of providing this little girl with a secure, loving and happy life then why should they not both be allowed to adopt this child notwithstanding the fact they are now separated?
Furthermore, if the child is used to spending time with both parties and then suddenly loses her entire relationship with the father, surely this will have a far greater impact on her emotional wellbeing than if both parties were to be able to care for her albeit separately. If the Judge is satisfied that the needs of the child are met and that the parents can provide stability for that child whether living together or separately there is no reason why he should not arrive at the conclusion that the adoption should go ahead for both parents. It seems that the parents have been open and honest about their circumstances with all those involved and they have clearly worked hard at making it work for the little girl.
In my view it is far better for a child to have two loving homes than one warring home or to only have one parent. Having both a mother and a father can bring so much more to a child’s life than only having one or the other.
Whilst there are many fantastic single parents doing a marvellous job of raising a child alone, if there are two loving, willing parents who want to care for this child, why should one of them be excluded just because their relationship is no longer working? If these two parents are able to put their love for their child before any animosity they may feel towards one another, and it would appear that they have already managed to make the arrangements work for a number of months, then why should this child not be allowed to continue this bond she has clearly built with both parents?