Re T (A Child: Refusal of Adoption Order)  EWCA Civ 797
Date posted: 27 July 2020
Ian Whitbread, Senior Legal Executive in the family team considers this case about adoption orders made which displace legal relationships.
In this case the court of appeal considered the appeal made by the maternal grandmother and step grandfather to refuse an Adoption Order in their favour concerning their 3 year old grandson.
The child had been cared for by the grandparents since the child was 2 days old. The grandparents had obtained a Special Guardianship Order in 2017. The mother had not had any contact with the child since he was 1 day old. The mother had mental health difficulties and spent time in both psychiatric units and prison. The mother also had a restraining order made against her regarding the grandmother and which she had breached on numerous occasions.
The grandparents applied for an Adoption order and believed that this would not change the family dynamics due to the family’s cultural background. The grandparents were of black South African parentage. The mother opposed this and the father was unknown. At the first instance the court refused the application on the basis that an Adoption order was not required and the Special Guardianship Order was sufficient.
The grandparents appealed on the basis that the judge had failed to consider the risks of future aggressive conduct by the mother, failed to consider the benefits to the child having a legal father, placed excessive weight on the skewing of legal relationships, and failed to have regard to the cultural approach of the maternal family to family relationships.
The court considered that whilst the trial judge may have considered some of the factors relied on by the grandparents, these were not included in the judgement. It was felt that it was not possible to infer that these factors had been appropriately considered where there was no reference in the judgement and so the omissions resulted in the judge’s welfare evaluation being flawed.
The appeal was allowed. The court was concerned as to the detriment to the child by the delay in having the case remitted for a further hearing. The court therefore granted an Adoption Order in favour of the grandparents. It was stated that the unusual circumstances of the case merited the making of an Adoption order so as to provide the child with the greatest security.
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