Bye bye baby, baby goodbye? – Eastenders

Poor Cindy Junior has been through the mill (and should expect to be dragged through it a good few times more if she intends to stay in Eastenders’ Albert Square).  Her mother, Cindy Senior, died whilst giving birth to her and she was raised by her maternal family before fleeing family strife to find her half-sibling twins Lucy and Peter Beale.  When Lucy was murdered (no, we still don’t buy that it was Bobby in the front room with the jewellery box) she was a suspect for a time, and later gave birth at a tender age to baby Beth.

Having struggled to bond with Beth, Cindy suggested that she should be adopted by her mother’s ex-husband Ian Beale and his wife Jane.  But Cindy has been finding it difficult and as the process has moved on, she has reached the conclusion that she wants Beth to be adopted out of the family.  Can she do this?  What are the Beale’s rights?

Our resident family solicitor Rebecca Finnigan comments.

When Beth’s father was identified as TJ, the paternal family made a big deal about supporting Beth and making sure that he was named upon her birth certificate.  He does therefore have parental responsibility (PR) for Beth and has just the same rights and responsibilities to her as her mother Cindy.  Given he has PR, he must be asked to give his consent to an adoption, whether it is within or outside of the extended family.  There are only very limited circumstances where the parent’s consent to an adoption can be dispensed with, so it is a wonder why no one has thought to ask TJ.

In fact consent to an adoption can only be dispensed with when the parent cannot be found, or is incapable of giving consent, or if the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with.  The latter is usually brought into play in cases where children have been subject to Care proceedings and are subject to an order for Placement for adoption.

Are there other ways of the Beale’s caring for Beth?  Without a court order, any manner of them caring for Lucy would have to be by consent of Cindy (and the father).  For example she could be temporarily placed into the care of the local authority (under section 20 Children Act 1989) who may assess the Beales as appropriate carers, but this is not a long term option.

The only other ways in which the Beales could care for Beth, without the consent of the parents necessarily, is by order of the court.  This could range from a Care or a Supervision Order (in which case the local authority’s plan for the child could be for the Beales to care for her, as foster carers), or perhaps a Special Guardianship Order.  In fact a Special Guardianship Order seems the most likely outcome, as they are very much in vogue at the moment where it comes to children being placed in their extended birth families as a long term measure, rather than the often quite draconian solution of adoption.

We await to see the outcome of this storyline, but in the meantime, can someone point TJ in the direction of his nearest family law solicitor please?

If you need advice about issues relation to children or any other family law issue details of specialist solicitors can be found through Resolution or the Law Society. Myself and my colleagues within the Divorce and Family Law department at Canter Levin & Berg are as ever happy to oblige.


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Rebecca Finnigan

Rebecca is an accredited member of the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law Panel. She is also a member of the solicitor’s family law association Resolution.

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