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25 JUN 2008

ADOPTION: Re P (Adoption: Unmarried Couple) [2008] UKHL 38, [2008] The Times June 23

(House of Lords; Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond and Lord Mance; 18 June 2008)

Northern Ireland regulations preventing the consideration of an unmarried couple as potential adoptive parents breached the couple's right to respect for family life under European Convention on Human Rights, Art 8. If it were rational to adopt a 'bright line rule' to determine what class of people should adopt children, there would be much to be said for identifying married people as the best people to adopt children. However, such a 'bright line rule' was quite irrational, because the law required the interests of each child to be examined on a case-by-case basis. The fact that a couple did not wish to undertake the obligations of marriage was a factor to be considered by the court in assessing the likely stability of their relationship and its impact upon the long term welfare of the child, but this could not rationally be elevated into an irrebuttable presumption of unsuitability.