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Court grants opposed post-adoption contact order

Child's 'welfare .... requires the maintenance of a relationship with his maternal grandmother and sister'

Lord Justice Ryder has granted a contact order in favour of a grandmother when making an order for the adoption of a 7 year old boy.

In MF v LB of Brent & Ors [2013] EWHC 1838 (Fam) the court heard that  the child, P-M, was first placed with his foster carer, Ms D, in August 2006 when he was four months old.  She cared for him for over four years until he was placed with his paternal aunt and uncle. When that placement proved unsuccessful, Ms D, who had maintained regular direct and telephone contact with P-M, provided a temporary placement for P-M.  In August 2012 the local authority approved P-M's placement with her as permanent with a view to adoption. Ryder LJ granted an adoption order in favour of Ms D. 

At the same hearing he considered an application for a contact order by P-M's grandmother, Ms F, who cared for P-M's half-brother and sister. In January 2008 an order for weekly contact was made in favour of Ms F.  That contact was subsequently reduced to once a month.   

Ms D expressed fears that contact which was too frequent and would 'in effect generate a life of its own, with which she could not cope'. 

Ryder LJ considered the authorities concerning contact after adoption, including Re R (Adoption: Contact) [2005] EWCA Civ 1128, [2006] 1 FLR 373, in which Wall LJ had said:

"the jurisprudence I think is clear. The imposition on prospective adopters of orders for contact with which they are not in agreement is extremely, and remains extremely, unusual."

In this case Ryder LJ said:

"I have come to the conclusion that that P-M's welfare throughout his life requires the maintenance of a relationship with his maternal grandmother and sister through whom there will be a relationship with his extended birth family.  Those relationships are important but must take second place to the primary relationship of parent and child which is the relationship between Ms D and P-M.  The contact should contribute to the reassurance and stability of P-M i.e. his feeling of identity without creating a risk of disruption.  I accept the principle that there should be regular direct contact for P-M with his maternal grandmother and sister and the agreement come to between the parties that P-M would benefit from maintaining a relationship with his paternal grandparents."

For the full judgment and a case summary written by Gillon Cameron of 14 Gray's Inn Square, please click here.