Family Law Blog

To have and to hold, to cherish and adopt

Posted by on 13 Mar 2012

Have you ever loved your partner so much you wanted to adopt them?

Polo magnate, John Goodman who is facing a civil trial in the US over the death of a 23-year-old in a hit and run accident, did just that.

A judge previously ruled that a trust Mr Goodman had set up for his two children could not be considered part of his financial worth if a jury awarded damages to the victim’s family. In an attempt to provide for his girlfriend, Mr Goodman has since adopted said girlfriend as his legal daughter, in turn allowing her to be entitled to a third of the family trust. An American Court has described the action as a new "twilight zone" for the legal system.

It is very unlikely that we get such a twilight rezoning case as the Adoption Act of NSW and it’s mirroring counterparts from other states state that adoption applies to a child under the age of 18 or for a person over the age of 18 that was cared for as a ward or stepchild of the adoptive parent when they were underage.

In Australia adoption is understood by most people to have the same meaning Angelina Jolie and Madonna understand it to have. There have been cases where children have been adopted by family members when their parents could not care for them. Of course there will always be the precedent setting case or two that come with a slightly off-centre set of facts.

In one interesting case a married couple asked the wife’s mother to become the surrogate mother of their child as the wife suffered from cervical cancer.

When determining who were the parents of the child (taking into account that all the parties agreed that the child belonged to the husband and wife regardless of who carried him in the womb) Justice Watts made this interesting comment “It came as a surprise to me, and I am afraid it will come as a surprise to the parties, that at law, [the grandmother] is Michael’s mother, [the grandmother’s partner] is his father, [the wife] is his maternal step-sister and [the husband] is his maternal step-brother-in-law. The good news is there is a way to rectify this surprising result.”

At the conclusion of the case, his Honour made recommendations for the amendment of certain sections of the Family Law Act to avoid any such surprises in the future.

Regardless of the background, adoption like a ripple will have effects that will carry through to the life of the child and the parents. So if you are thinking of adopting your stepchild, ward or even a family member remember to always seek legal advice beforehand to understand the legal consequences such a decision can have on you, your adopted child and the rest of your family.