Finality vs Fathers: Undoing Adoption to Recognise Biological Ties

Sloan, BD 

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RE J (Adoption: Appeal) [2018] EWFC 8, [2018] 4 W.L.R 38 is a striking judgment in which Cobb J. was willing to set aside an adoption order made without the involvement of the relevant child’s biological father. J was born when his mother (“M”) and father (“F”) were still teenagers, and M was living with her own parents. M and F had a relationship lasting a few months. Initially F visited J, but his level of engagement varied due to periodic depression. When J was five years old, M married SF and gave birth to J’s step-brother. In 2012, SF gave the local authority notice of his intention to adopt J. In the course of local authority enquiries, both M and SF falsely claimed that they did not know F’s identity, whereabouts or contact details. M claimed that she had met F at a party and had a sexual encounter with him, and that she did not know whether he lived locally or further afield. It was “[i]ndisputably” true, Cobb J. held, that “M, SF and M’s family misled the local authority social worker, the Cafcass reporting officer, and ultimately the magistrates considering the adoption application”, and the parties accepted that they did (at [16]). The lies were described as “particularly egregious” (at [16]), and the conduct of M and SF as “disgraceful” (at [34]).

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Cambridge Law Journal
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Cambridge University Press