Once a child is adopted this severs all legal ties with the birth family and establishes a new legal relationship with the adopters family. Often these adoptions are considered to be enabling the child to be a part of a forever family. However, the law allows for applications for revocation of the Adoption Order, but should this offer a glimmer of hope to families who have not been able to care for their children where Adoption Orders have been granted?
Recently Mrs Justice Pauffley in PK v Mr & Mrs K  EWHC 2316 (Fam) utilised the Inherent Jurisdiction to revoke an Adoption Order more than 10 years after it was made and allowed the child’s name to be changed; reverting back to her birth name. On face value this might give birth parents hope that it is never to late to revoke the Adoption Order. However, Mrs Justice Pauffley made it clear, as have previous cases (Re B (Adoption: Jurisdiction to Set Aside)  Fam 239, Re Webster v Norfolk County Council and the Children (by their Children’s Guardian)  EWCA Civ 59, as considered by Bodey J in Re W (Inherent Jurisdiction: Permission Application: Revocation and Adoption Order)  2 FLR 1609) that such revocation should only be granted in exceptional circumstances. Bodey J in Re W stated, “To allow considerations such as those put forward in this case to invalidate an otherwise properly made Adoption Order would in my view undermine the whole basis on which Adoption Orders are made, namely that they are final and for life, as regards the adopters, the natural parents and the child. In my judgment (Counsel) is right when he submits that it will gravely damage the lifelong commitment of adopters to their adoptive children if there is the possibility of the child, or indeed the parents, subsequently challenging the validity of the Order.” Bodey J also referred to the judgment of Wall LJ (as he then was) in Re Webster “Adoption is a statutory process; the law relating to it is very clear. The scope for the exercise of judicial discretion is severely curtailed. Once Orders for Adoption have been lawfully and properly made, it is only in highly exceptional and very particular circumstances that the court will permit them to set aside.”
Why was revocation granted in Re PK? The child, PK, was 4 years old when the Adoption Order was made and approximately 2 years later PK was sent to live in Ghana with extended members of the adopters family, who subsequently subjected PK to significant abuse. Approximately 10 years after the Adoption Order was made, PK returned to England and was reunited with her birth family. The adopters attended an early hearing in the wardship proceedings and raised no objection to the application. They did not respond to further attempts to obtain their position regarding the applications. Mrs Justice Pauffley considered that the facts of this case required her to utilise the inherent jurisdiction and revoke the Adoption Order, but in doing so she highlighted that the circumstances of the case were “highly exceptional and very particular.”
So are orders revoking Adoption Orders as rare as hen’s teeth? I can say that I have never had cause to carry out any research into how rare hen’s teeth are, but having never seen birds with teeth or pigs that can fly, I consider the answer to be no, but it is clear that the courts consider such revocations to be highly exceptional and in turn cases of such will be exceptionally rare, but not unheard of, perhaps like the white leopard.