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Share Article: A landmark Human Rights Act decision in a stepparent adoption case

Freemans in Re H (Step-Parent Adoption: Human Rights), Re – Find case law (nationalarchives.gov.uk). A landmark Human Rights Act decision in a stepparent adoption case which paves the way for future stepparent adoptions by widows or widowers.

Nina Hansen, together with Counsel Richard Jones and Emma Colebatch of 1GC, represented ‘H’, a boy of 17 years at the time of the Court’s decision. H’s stepfather had applied to adopt H following the death of H’s mother. H’s biological father had separated from his mother before H was born and did not have parental responsibility for him. H was raised by his mother and his stepfather, whom H’s mother had married when H was 2 years old. Their plan for H was always adoption of him by his stepfather, but before the plan could be realised H’s mother died.

H fully supported his stepfather’s application. The Local Authority supported the making of the adoption order. On the face of it, however, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 appeared not to allow for a stepparent adoption where the stepparent was widowed.

The Court appointed a CAFCASS solicitor as an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” – in this case, to consider the case against H and his stepfather. Following legal argument from all parties, and having regard to H and his stepfather’s Article 8 Rights under the ECHR, the President of the Family Division decided that the following words could be ‘read’ down’ into the statute: –

“51 Adoption by one person

(2) An adoption order may be made on the application of one person who has attained the age of 21 years if the court is satisfied that the person is the partner of a parent to the person to be adopted or a widow/widower of the child’s parent who was the parent’s partner immediately before the parent’s death.”

This decision amends the interpretation of the statue to the benefit of H, his family and families like his who find themselves in such a situation.

Nina Hansen is the Head of the Family Department and regularly represents children and adults in complex matters. In 2023 she was named “Children’s Champion” by Resolution at their inaugural award ceremony.

If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, or would like advice on this subject, please contact a member of the Freemans family team.

Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.

 

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