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Finding Adopted Children

We are occasionally asked to trace a child who has been adopted. These can be very distressing situations. The general answer is that except in very limited circumstances, it is not possible through the courts. The rule is that adoption records once complete are sealed.

The exception is where an applicant can persuade a court that being found would be in the clear best interests of the child. S50(5) of the Adoption Act 1976 allows a court to order the Registrar General to reveal his records to allow attempts to contact the child (this may of course be only a part of the story).

There have been now several cases on this topic. The position is that the section is mandatory on the Registrar. He is not to disclose anything 'unless' Secondly, orders should be made in only exceptional circiumstances, and thirdly, such orders should be made only where there is demonstrated a clear benefit for the adopted child, for whom any contact may come as terrible shock. Two such circumstances where an order has been made were where a substantial legacy had been left to the child, and where it was discovered that she might carry a genetic trait making her susceptible to inherited disease.


  • In Re L (a Minor) (Adoption: Disclosure of Information), and
  • D -v- Registrar General
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    18 October 2013 505 18 October 2013