Re H (Step-Parent Adoption) [2020] EWFC 86

 This case concerns an application for the adoption of a 17-year-old girl (H) under s.46 Adoption and Children Act 2002 by her stepfather. Born in Thailand, H and her mother have lived in the UK since 2011 with the stepfather and their two younger children. H’s birth father was never married to her mother, he was named on the birth certificate but did not acquire parental responsibility.  The Thai authorities were unable to trace him.

Cobb J set out the Thai legal framework with regards to “legitimation” and “parental power” (parental responsibility is not a term used in the relevant Thai statute) [9-14], which is largely similar to s.4 Children Act 1989.  Aside from the fact that naming the father on the birth certificate does not of itself grant legitimation to a father who was not married to the mother. Under Thai law the stepfather was also able to adopt H as there is the required age gap of at least 25 years and H consented to the adoption, as required by a Thai child over 15.

Cobb J held that the father’s consent was not required as he did not appear to have parental responsibility for H (s.52(6) Adoption and Children Act 2002). Had the father’s consent been required, Cobb J stated he would be “contented…to dispense with it on the ground that he could not be found” (s.52(1)) or on the grounds that H’s paramount welfare required such a dispensation per s.52(2) [18].

The full judgment can be accessed here.