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Adoption of girl (3) 'can proceed' despite mother's refusal to name father - High Court

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Independent

Tim Healy

THE High Court has ordered the adoption of a 22-year-old woman's three-year-old baby girl can proceed following failed efforts to get her to identify the father so that his consent for the adoption could be obtained.

The woman had looked for the baby to be adopted after hiding her pregnancy from all but her sister whose apartment the woman moved into for a short time before the baby was born.

She kept the pregnancy secret from all but her sister and explained away her increased weight by saying she had a metabolic condition.

Thirty weeks into her pregnancy she inquired about and sought early adoption of the baby. But the adoption agency said she would have to first give the father's name in both his interests and those of the child.

She refused saying the father would be unable to cope with knowing about the child. She said the father was on regular medication for depression and, if he failed to take it, can be overwhelmed and and withdraws from social interaction.

She also said he had a number of stresses recently, including failing his exams and his sister was diagnosed with a life threatening illness.

His parents, she claimed, found it difficult to support him and that she was not willing to increase his stress levels by telling him about the pregnancy.

She also said that though she knew him for eight years and they had been in a relationship during two periods, one of three months and another of 12 months, they were no longer in a relationship.

She was protective of him and of her own parents who, she believed, would suffer knowing of a grandchild that would be lost to them by adoption.

Despite receiving counselling from the adoption agency in which she repeatedly advised of the legal rights of the father and the repercussions both on him and on the child, she still refused to identify him.

She wanted the adoption to take place at the earliest opportunity so the child could grow up in a loving home with two parents.

Following the baby's birth, the child was placed in a pre-adoptive foster home where she remained pending the High Court application by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) for an order approving the placing of the baby for adoption without notifying the father.

Mr Justice Henry Abbot said he was was granting an order with "considerable regret".

The father's legal rights in relation to the child were not being met but "nothing more can be done" to ascertain his identity, he said.

The mother and her sister had both refused before the court to identify him.

Notwithstanding these deficiencies, he said, the interests of the child remained paramount as directed by the 2010 Adoption Act and by the Constitution.

The child's speedy adoption and placement for adoption dictated the court should make the order sought, he said. Earlier in his judgment, the judge said. 

"the problem with secrets was that they are frequently found out and that the father would probably find out eventually."

If this happened, the father could then take steps to challenge any adoption order that had been made, he said.

The judge also said the woman and her sister, who he described as both intelligent and educated women, have undertaken to provide information on the father's medical history but would not reveal his identity.

The judge also said an alternative of not granting the adoption order was to place the child in long-term foster care and she could ultimately be adopted by the foster family.

However, he said this was "fraught with uncertainty".

The judge also referred to a similar UK case in which a judge said if a woman was compelled, in the face of being jailed for contempt, to reveal the identity, it could drive other women to seek abortions or give birth secretly at risk to both themselves and their babies.

The UK judge described such a process as smacking “too much of the Inquisition to be tolerable."

Mr Justice Abbott said he was taking a "similar balanced approach" to this matter.

Online Editors