A Nigerian couple living in the UK have had their adoption of a toddler in their home country recognised in English law.
‘Mr and Mrs W’ are a married couple with temporary leave to live in the UK. They plan to return to Nigeria in two years’ time after the husband completes medical training over here.
They had applied for formal recognition in the English courts of an adoption order made in Nigeria. They wanted the two year-old boy, ‘V’, that they had taken into their family to be recognised as their son under English immigration law, as he did not otherwise quality for entry. This had forced his parents to leave him with relatives of the mother back in Nigeria.
During their stay in England, the couple have kept in touch with the toddler via social media. Nonetheless, noted Mrs Mrs Justice Pauffley in a High Court hearing:
“…the strain upon them (Mrs W in particular) of being separated from their long awaited and much loved son was all too evident when Mrs W gave evidence.”
Unfortunately Mr and Mrs W did not qualify for the standard routes to adoption recognition. They could not apply for a declaration that V was their adopted child because he was habitually resident in the UK. They were also unable to adopt V under UK law as they again did not meet the requirements for eligibility as foreign-born temporary residents.
The couple therefore took the only route available to them: applying for formal recognition of the Nigerian adoption order under common law. Mrs Justice Pauffley explained that the Adoption and Children Act 2002 includes in its definition:
“…an adoption recognised by the law of England and Wales, and effected under the law of any other country.”
But the West African nation has not ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the Judge continued, so adoption orders made in that country do not qualify for automatic recognition in the UK.
Mrs Justice Pauffley considered a few inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the facts outlined in the couple’s affidavit but did not consider these sufficiently serious to invalidate their application ,saying:
“In my judgment, there is no public policy reason, none at all, for refusing recognition. Indeed, it would be an affront to public policy to refuse to recognise V’s adoption order.”
“It seems to me there can be no question but that Mr and Mrs W and V are properly entitled to be viewed as a family; and that their Article 8 rights are most definitely engaged.”
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights refers to recognition of “private and family life”.
The Judge continued:
“…to deny them recognition of the adoption order would constitute an unwarranted interference with those rights.”
Read the judgement here.
Photo of Nigerian flag by jbdodane via Flickr