A father of four who opposed plans to adopt his youngest child has succeeded in a legal bid against the proposal.
In H (Children), the youngsters’ mother suffered “substantial difficulties with her mental well-being”, in the words of Lord Justice McFarlane at the Court of Appeal, and as a result was unable to look after them properly, a fact she accepted. The children went to live with their father, but the local authority doubted the father’s ability to cope and launched care proceedings. They sought to place the older two children in long term foster care and have the younger two adopted. At the time of the hearing in 2013, the four children were aged aged nine, six, four and ten months.
But a Judge rejected the authority’s plan for all but one of the children. District Judge Gamba said:
“It is clear from the evidence that the father offers good enough care for the children. I think that it is in fact more than this: I feel it is very good care.
“I am satisfied that the children are for the main part doing well at school. I am satisfied that they have a significant attachment with the father.”
The father attempted to appeal this ruling, but lodged his application to do so 20 days past the legal deadline of 21 days. It was rejected as ‘out of time’, but the assessing judge also stated that no valid grounds for an appeal existed.
Meanwhile, the youngest child was placed with prospective adopters. At that point the father took further action, seeking permission to oppose the planned adoption order, and after an initial refusal, the father and his counsel were granted leave to do so. He also applied for permission to appeal the original care and placement orders and was eventually successful in this too.
At a hearing in May latter orders were set aside and replaced with a temporary care order. The case was to be reheard. Lord Justice McFarlane stressed the importance of timely appeals against adoption orders in the interests of the children’s welfare but also noted that many parents and family members appeal care orders as a matter of course, but many of these are unrepresented litigants in person.
“In human terms, in an attempt to do anything that they possibly can to avoid the consequences of the orders that have been made, their actions are entirely understandable. As lay parties, they may not be aware of the 21 day time window for appealing and their notice of appeal may be lodged a significant time after the lower court has made its final orders.”
The judgement is available to read here.