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Recognition of an overseas adoption order

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There isn’t anything quite as anxiety promoting when you are torn between continents with your family commitments. That is what can happen when you adopt a child overseas from a non-Hague convention country and then face the battle to return to the UK with your adopted child. Immigration and child law solicitor Angelique Holm has helped one mother in such a battle in a case reported in the UK as AMDK v NA [2020] EWHC 1548 (Fam).

International adoption solicitors

For specialist adoption law and immigration law advice and answers to your family and immigration law questions call the adoption and immigration law experts at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. We offer appointments at our central London offices or by video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.

Adopting from overseas

If the country you choose to adopt a child from:

  • Is not signed up to The Hague Convention or
  • The UK doesn’t legally recognise an adoption order made in the particular overseas country

You might need to apply for an adoption order in the UK or an order recognising the validity of the overseas adoption order. It is best to take both family law and immigration law advice from UK adoption and immigration solicitors to understand your immigration law options to secure entry clearance for your adopted child.

From abandonment at the roadside in Uganda to starting on the path to a new life in London with her adoptive mother. That was what the case of AMDK v NA [2020] EWHC 1548 (Fam) was all about.

It is the sort of court case that reminds child law and immigration solicitor, Angelique Holm, why a career in the law is so rewarding. The smile of relief on one adoptive mother’s face made all the hard work worthwhile.

For those thinking of adopting from overseas or wanting to return to live in the UK after having adopted a child whilst living abroad the case is important reading.

The court application concerned a request for the recognition, pursuant to common law, of an adoption order made in Uganda. Recognition of the adoption order was required as Uganda isn’t a signatory to The Hague Convention and accordingly whilst the child had been legally adopted by her adoptive mother in Uganda, the court order wasn’t recognised as a legal order in the UK and, importantly, didn’t therefore confer a right for the child to enter the UK or automatic UK citizenship rights.

The child’s story makes compelling reading; found abandoned on the roadside in Uganda aged around eight months of age with no means of tracing her biological parents, the baby girl was fortunate enough to be fostered and later adopted in Uganda by a mother who had decided to make a home for herself in Uganda. Her commitment to the baby and country was such that she had acquired Ugandan citizenship so, at the date of the UK court proceedings, she held dual British citizenship and Ugandan citizenship.

If the mother had chosen to remain in Uganda all would have been well but family ties and the needs of her father and sister, were pulling the mother back to the UK. However, that is when the mother realised that she had a problem; the child that she had nurtured and legally adopted in Uganda wasn’t classed as an adopted child under UK law as the English family court doesn’t recognise non-Hague Convention adoption orders.

Some parents would have given up at the first hurdle and made the difficult decision that the needs of UK based family or her Ugandan adopted daughter would prevail. Either decision would result in there being a ‘loser’. That wasn’t an option for this adoptive mother and hence the battle was commenced to secure recognition of the Ugandan adoption order as the first steps in enabling the mother to secure UK entry clearance for her adopted daughter.

The purpose of making the application for the recognition of the overseas adoption order was to enable the British adoptive mother to be able to return to live in the UK, starting the Home Office application process to bring her daughter with her. As there were both family law and immigration law issues the Home Office had to be notified about the court application so that they could decide whether to be joined as a party to the court application.  The Home Office chose to take no part in the family law court proceedings.

Although the Home Office were not a party to the mother’s application for the overseas adoption order to be recognised as a legal adoption order in the UK the English court nonetheless had to carefully consider whether the child met the criteria for her non-Hague Convention overseas adoption order to be recognised, namely:

  1. The adoptive parent must have been domiciled in the overseas country at the time of the foreign adoption order
  2. The child must have been legally adopted in accordance with the requirements of the law of the overseas country
  3. The foreign adoption must in substance have the same essential characteristics as an English adoption
  4. There must be no reason in public policy for refusing recognition of the adoption order.

In the case of AMDK v NA [2020] EWHC 1548 (Fam) the adoptive mother is a British citizen, who was born and brought up in the UK, but chose to relocate to Uganda having met and married a Ugandan man. Her plan was to remain in Uganda for the rest of her life, despite the breakdown of her marriage. She became a citizen of Uganda, enjoying dual UK citizenship, and making a life for herself in Uganda. That life included fostering and later legally adopting an abandoned baby. The Ugandan family court concluded that it was in the best interests of the child to be adopted, and made an adoption order that was legally valid in Uganda.

Time passed and in order to support her father and sister, the adoptive mother made the decision that she would move back to England to do so but she could and would only do so if she was able to bring her adoptive daughter with her.

That decision started the mother’s contact with the Home Office to secure entry clearance to the UK for her daughter. The Home Office rejected an application for a visa for the child on the ground that there is no automatic recognition in the UK of Ugandan adoptions. The adoptive mother was therefore driven to make her adoption order recognition application to the UK family court.

The UK family court concluded that there ‘’was not the slightest reason to doubt the truth and sincerity of what the applicant says’’ and determined that the mother was domiciled in Uganda at the time of the adoption order application and that Uganda is her domicile of choice until she finally leaves Uganda with no intention of returning, at which point her English domicile of origin will revert.

The court was then easily able to satisfy itself that the child was legally adopted in accordance with the requirements of the law in Uganda having read the judgment of the Ugandan High Court judge, setting out the relevant provisions of Ugandan law, and a report from an expert witness on Ugandan adoption law.

The English judge concluded that the foreign adoption order has in substance the same essential characteristics as an English adoption and that there is ‘’not the slightest reason in public policy’’ for refusing recognition of the child’s Ugandan adoption order. Thus the mother has taken the first step in her journey to secure UK entry clearance for her daughter and to enable her to provide the help and support her family in the UK need, without her daughter being abandoned for the second time due to the legal complexities of overseas adoption law.

UK overseas adoption and immigration solicitors

The children and family law team of specialist children and  adoption lawyers at OTS Solicitors  work with in-house immigration law experts to answer your international  children law and overseas adoption order questions. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our ONLINE ENQUIRY FORM so we can set up a Skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you.

OTS Solicitors are recommended for immigration law in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and The Legal 500. If you choose the friendly and efficient team of adoption solicitors to help you they will ensure that the adoption and immigration process is as speedy and hassle free as possible for you and your family.

What people say about our adoption and children law services:

Client – May 2020

Inter-Country Adoption

‘’I was very pleased with the service provided by Angelique Holm in the family law unit. I had an unusual case with uncertain outcomes but Angelique steered me through to success with a positive and very supportive approach something I really needed at the time. She appeared to have the support of the larger team at OTS which was also comforting. I would highly recommend the firm’’.

Client – October 2019

Family Law and Childcare

‘’On dealing with a very stressful and emotional situation involving my young child. From the very outset... the approach to my case was monumental and customary to my needs and that of my child, which was a fundamental point for me. The communication and support I received in and outside of court was nothing short of extraordinary’’.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our ONLINE ENQUIRY FORM so we can set up a Skype, video conference or telephone appointment for you.

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