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22 March 2024

Sarah Williams and Evelyn Collins achieve victory for their clients in contested adoption proceedings  

In the case of Prospective Adopters v London Borough of Ealing (1), SK (2), NS (3) and E (by the Children’s Guardian AS) (4) [2023] EWFC 294 (B) Sarah Williams, Partner and Head of the Modern Family Law Department, and Evelyn Collins, an Associate in the Family Department and member of the Modern Family team, represented the prospective adopters and successfully obtained an Adoption Order for them in this sensitive and complex case.

Sarah and Evelyn instructed Edward Bennett of Harcourt Chambers on behalf of the adopters.

This case concerned our clients’ adoption application, which was opposed by the birth parents but supported by the Children’s Guardian acting for the child. The Local Authority supported our clients’ application but a locum social worker filed evidence in support of the birth parents, notwithstanding allegations of domestic abuse between the birth parents. The birth parents were granted leave to oppose the adoption but they were ultimately unsuccessful.

In deciding whether to make the Adoption Order in favour of our clients, the judge had to consider the child’s welfare through his life. This is the paramount consideration. There is no presumption of a family placement nor in favour of a birth parent.

Edward Bennett, instructed by this firm on behalf of our clients, made key submissions following the guidance in Re W, “that there should be a sophisticated and in-depth assessment of a child’s attachment and the impact of separation”. The birth parents’ lack of openness, honesty, consistency, insight and language difficulties were important factors in the judge determining the welfare of the child and whether an Adoption Order should be made.

The judge described the relationship the child had with our clients and his wider family to be “a very significant factor the Court has to have regard to” and a “key aspect in this case”. Our clients’ social worker attested to the “very established and secure attachment” between the child and our clients. The judge also considered the harm that the child would suffer in being removed from our clients, the prospective adopters, in the short and longer terms, as well as the risk of harm in being exposed to domestic violence and the birth mother failing to prioritise the child over the birth father.

The judge granted our clients’ application for an Adoption Order in respect of the child and thanked “all of the advocates and professionals for their help on this difficult case”. We were pleased to achieve such a positive outcome for our clients and wish them and their family, including the child at the heart of these proceedings, all the best for the future.

You can read the full judgment here:

For further information, please contact Sarah Williams, Head of Modern Family Law or Evelyn Collins, Associate in the Family Department or your usual contact in the Family Department or, alternatively, telephone on 020 7465 4300.

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Evelyn Collins
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Sarah Williams
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