Opposing an Adoption Order
Adoption applications are made for children by prospective adopters after care proceedings. Birth parents think this is the “be all and end all” for their children and they cannot oppose an adoption application.
This is not the case. Once a child has been “placed” for adoption the parent may oppose the adoption with the permission of the Court. The Court determines whether permission should be granted on a case by case basis. This is called asking for ‘leave’ to oppose the adoption.
The Court may give permission to the parent to oppose the making of an adoption order if it is satisfied ‘that there has been a sufficient change in circumstances since the consent of the parent or guardian was given or, as the case may be, the placement order was made’.
There are two stages to the test. Firstly it needs to be determined whether there has been a change in circumstances. If there has been a change in circumstances, should the court exercise its discretion to allow the parent/parents to oppose?
Whether or not there has been a change of circumstances depends on facts and it does not need to be a ‘significant’ change but the nature and degree of change has to be sufficient.
The courts will look at the welfare of the child/children and the welfare checklist, and will take this into accountwhen making a decision to grant leave to oppose an adoption order. Even if a parent is able to identify a change in circumstances, the courts priority is the welfare of the child throughout their life.
When the Court considers the welfare checklist they may also consider how long the child has been with prospective adoptive parent/parents, whether there is a bond and would separation affect the child. Often children are placed with their prospective adopters before an actual adoption order is made.
The Court will also need to consider the items outlines in section 1 (4) Adoption and Children Act 2002 for the welfare checklist:
The court or adoption agency must have regard to the following matters (among others)—
(a) the child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding),
(b) the child’s particular needs,
(c) the likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person,
(d) the child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant,
(e) any harm (within the meaning of the Children Act 1989 ) which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering,
(f) the relationship which the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including—
(i) the likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of its doing so,
(ii )the ability and willingness of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child’s needs,
(iii) the wishes and feelings of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child.
You can apply for Legal Aid to seek permission from the Court to oppose an adoption application, but this is assessed on your likelihood of success of the case. The Legal Aid Agency and the Court will look at whether you have made sufficient changes in your lifestyle, what evidence you have for these changes and if this change has been sustainable since the Final Care Order and will it be sustainable in the future.
If you want to oppose an adoption application or if social services are involved with your family and you require legal advice then please contact a member of our care department who will be able to assist you on 0116 255 4855.