A woman in a same-sex relationship who was forced to adopt her daughter because officials refused to register her as her child’s mother has secured a high court ruling quashing the adoption.
Sarah Osborne, 48, and Helen Arnold, 48, had a baby with the help of IVF in 2014 but Osborne was forced to go through the “painful and humiliating” process of formally adopting her child – including being interviewed by social workers about her suitability as a parent and undergoing criminal records checks.
The couple registered their child’s birth at Cambridge register office but the registrar said that unless Osborne was the father, and she “clearly wasn’t”, then her name was not permitted on the birth certificate. They said, wrongly, there “could only be one” mother.
It was in breach of the law that states that same-sex female couples who have a child through IVF – and who consented to being treated as a parent – should be named on the child’s birth certificate.
Osborne described the registrar’s attitude as “disrespectful, indignant and flippant” and said they “made me feel stupid for asking or expecting be named as a parent and I wasn’t worthy of such official recognition, as if I was a random stranger off the street”.
The error by Cambridgeshire county council was “a travesty” the couple said, as they waived their right to anonymity so others don’t have to go through the same ordeal. They spoke after Mr Justice Macdonald handed down a ruling in the high court in London which revoked the adoption order and quashed the original birth certificate.
“It gives me great pleasure today to make this order for what I know for your clients has been a very difficult number of years,” the judge said. “I am certain that it has caused great distress and discomfort and upset for them and I hope that the court making the order today can bring some form of closure to them. It is extremely unfortunate that these events occurred.”
The women were tearful as the judge announced his decision, with Mr Justice MacDonald wishing the family “the best for the future”.
“For our child it was simply unfathomable that adoption was our only option and to then find out that none of it was necessary was incomprehensible,” said Arnold. “The fact that our child has two mums already sets them apart, already represents something they need to learn to adapt to, explain and accept. Knowing that they were also ‘adopted’ was an added layer of complexity and was potentially very damaging to them.”
They launched a high court legal bid through The Cambridge Family Law Practice (CFLP), to get the adoption of their child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, quashed.
“We are delighted that we have finally had this erroneous adoption order quashed and look forward to being registered, as I always have been, as the parent of my child,” said Osborne. “At the same time, we are very angry and deeply disappointed that we have had to fight so hard to put right Cambridgeshire county council’s failures and get the adoption order revoked. We should never have been placed in this situation in the first place.”
A spokesperson for Cambridge county council said: “We recognise the impact this has had on the family, and would welcome the opportunity to work with the General register office on a review to try and prevent any family or local authority being in a similar situation again.”
July 15, 2022 at 09:22PM Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent