Step-parent adoption gone wrong: GT v CT  3 ALL SA 631 (GJ)
Step-parent adoption happens where a child is adopted by the spouse or civil union partner of a biological parent. This is a drastic invasion into the life of a child because (except if provided for otherwise) an adoption order terminates all parental responsibilities and rights any person had in respect of a child immediately before the adoption, and confers full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the adopted child upon the adoptive parent. Under specific circumstances an adoption order may also be rescinded, again disrupting the life of the child dramatically. Because of the immense impact on a child, the rescission of an adoption order has to be handled with kid gloves.
In GT v CT  3 ALL SA 631 (GJ) two children had been legally adopted by their stepfather while the Child Care Act was in operation. After the implementation of the Children's Act 38 of 2005, however, he applied for these adoption orders to be rescinded. The court was faced with a situation where the application had been brought in contravention of the maximum two-year-period as prescribed by the Children's Act. Although it was argued that non-compliance with this statutory requirement prevented the court from adjudicating this matter, Mokgoatlheng J focused on the best interests of the child, considered the legality of the adoption orders (why?), and ultimately concluded that the supremacy of the best interests of the child meant that he was not precluded from hearing the application. In the end he ordered the rescission of the adoption orders. The judgment cannot be supported.
Keywords: Adoption; best interests of the child; children; parental responsibilities and rights; rescission; step-parent adoption