Woman granted access to father’s confidential adoption records
In a ground-breaking ruling a woman has been granted permission to see the adoption file of her late father in order to learn about her biological grandparents.
In X (Adopted Child: Access to Court File), Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said that the question was a simple one – yet of considerable importance and on which no direct authority existed.
The facts were that the man, referred to as X by Judge Munby, was born on 5 November 1929 and a matter of weeks later was subject of an adoption order that he be adopted by a couple, Mr and Mrs C, now also deceased. X died in 2011 and since then Y, his daughter has been seeking access to the original court files with a view to finding out more about her father’s past. Adoption files are kept confidential to protect the children, parents and other family members subject to them.
The application noted that of the parties involved, X himself and his adoptive parents were deceased, and his biological mother was almost certainly deceased therefore revealing her name to a biological family member would cause no harm.
Judge Munby insisted he was not usurping the powers of Parliament by granting the application because it was certain that the grandmother and other relatives were dead.
X’s adoption file, which has been closed, contains the name and address of the grandmother, a signed consent form, a letter she wrote to the adoptive parents and the father’s birth certificate. It is possible that the child was born outside marriage and given up for adoption to avoid what might at the time have been considered a social disgrace.
Judge Munby said that “the policy of maintaining public confidence in the confidentiality of adoption files is an important consideration”. But also relevant was “the duration of time that has elapsed since the order was made, and the question of whether any or all of the affected parties are deceased”.
Parliament is consulting on whether to allow grandchildren to access information about their birth families. This will extend the existing right of adopted children, when they reach the age of 18, to open up adoption files to find their birth parents.