In a guideline case, a devoted stepfather has triumphed in his fight to drop the ‘step’ and call himself a proper, legally recognised, ‘dad’ to two children for whom he had cared for years as if they were his own flesh and blood.
The man and the mother of the children, aged 12 and 14, had been in a stable and loving relationship for most of the youngsters’ lives. Their natural fathers had shown little or no interest in them since they were very small.
However, a family judge had refused to allow the stepfather to formally adopt the children. He had expressed concerns that the parental rights of the girl’s natural father, who had been married to her mother, would be extinguished without his consent. The girl might regret her adoption in later life and the judge was not satisfied that it would promote her welfare in the long term.
In allowing the stepfather’s appeal and making the adoption orders sought, the court found that the family judge had ‘fallen into substantial error’. The children had been part of a settled family unit since 2007; their relationship with their natural fathers ‘had neither life nor reality’ and both of them had expressed ‘a clear and strong wish’ to be adopted and bear the stepfather’s surname.
The stepfather had shown absolute commitment ‘to becoming the children’s father for life’ and the court concluded, “Nothing short of adoption makes the adoptive father the child’s ‘dad’ in the fullest sense.”