Leave granted to foster parents to intervene in wardship proceedings to make arrangements to apply for adoption of ward31Aug2020
In ongoing public wardship proceedings in Hong Kong the High Court granted leave to the foster parents (“Mr and Mrs K”) of the ward (“G”) to intervene in the proceedings and to make arrangements for the adoption of G by them. The Court’s Reasons for Decision can be found here.
The wardship proceedings’ background is complex and was set out in the Judgment dated 23 April 2018 following a five day trial of G’s mother’s application to de-ward him. The application was dismissed and G remains a ward in the care of Mr and Mrs K in whose physical care he has been for around six years. G is the plaintiff by his next friend. Tanner De Witt acts for G.
G’s mother, the Director of Social Welfare, and International Social Service are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Defendants respectively. This is an interesting case and unique in the Hong Kong context.
This particular application by Mr and Mrs K gave rise to some novel considerations.
Application to intervene
Mr and Mrs K sought leave to intervene in the proceedings for the purpose of applying for leave under s 23 of the Adoption Ordinance to make arrangements for the adoption of G. They previously expressed their willingness to adopt G or continue to care for him in their current capacity in their evidence at trial.
The Director of Social Welfare disputed the need for Mr and Mrs K to be joined as interveners to the wardship proceedings and submitted that separate proceedings could be issued for the purpose of seeking leave to make arrangements for G’s adoption. The Director of Social Welfare also submitted that the first step for local adoptions in Hong Kong is to obtain or dispense with G’s mother’s consent to the adoption had not been satisfied and it was therefore premature to make any arrangements for adoption.
Mr and Mrs K argued, and the Court agreed, that Mr and Mrs K were required to apply for prior leave or authorisation under s 23 (A)(1)(c) of the Adoption Ordinance for them to take any steps at all for the adoption of G, including the first step of seeking or applying to dispense with the mother’s consent. On the submission of the plaintiff the Court accepted that it was a matter of the Court’s discretion under Order 15 rule 6(2)(b) as to whether to join Mr and Mrs K to the proceedings or not.
Further, it is well established and was reiterated by the Court that “…once the wardship court becomes the guardian of a child, no important step in the life of a ward may be taken without the consent of the wardship court, and that this must include the adoption of the ward and arrangements for adoption, changes in care and custodial decisions relating to the ward.” To avoid duplicity of proceedings where leave of the wardship judge would be required in any event Mr and Mrs K were joined as interveners to the wardship proceedings under Order 15 rule 6(2)(b) for a period of 6 months for the purpose of their intended application to make arrangements to apply for the adoption of G.
Joanne Brown and Elizabeth Seymour-Jones
If you require advice on wardship proceedings and their impact on your family circumstances, please contact Partner Joanne Brown.
Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.