23rd Feb 2013

Years ago I had an interesting case of a couple that were living separately and apart but under the same roof. The husband and wife had virtually not spoken to each other for about 15 years. They continued to live together and sleep in the same bed, as the only daughter became pregnant at the age of 13 and had a baby. The grandparents raised the baby as their child, and the child thought her mother was her sister.

The grandparents had a semi-detached cottage with only two bedrooms. The wife kept house for the family and prepared meals. As the husband arrived home the wife would leave by the back door to meet her boyfriend. This unpleasant lifestyle persisted until the grandchild was about 10 years of age, when the wife decided that she had had enough and wanted a divorce.

Prior to the hearing of the divorce the wife vacated the family home, taking her grandchild with her and commenced to live with her boyfriend. The court granted a decree. Subsequently the grandmother and her new husband instructed me to put in an application for the adoption of the child. The Supreme Court required a report from a child psychologist as to the appropriateness of an adoption order, and the recommendation of the child psychologist was that the child should be advised that her grandmother was not her mother, but the person whom she understood to be her sister, was in fact her mother. Interestingly the child did not seem perplexed or damaged in any way with this information and went about her normal life, which demonstrated the resilience and adaptability of children, which should never be underestimated.

The grandmother and her boyfriend were granted adoption of the child.