On 30 October 2013 the North Gauteng High Court handed down judgment in a case in which it was asked to clarify certain sections of the Children’s Act to facilitate the process whereby a step-parent may apply to the Children’s Court to adopt. The sections were vague and caused confusion, step-parents who wanted to adopt were being turned away by the Children’s Courts because of a narrow interpretation of the relevant sections.

On the narrow interpretation, the sections seemed to suggest that an adoptable child is one who does not have a guardian, therefore excluding a child already living with an adequate parent (i.e the step-parent’s partner or spouse). A child could be adopted by a step-parent but all the rights and responsibilities of the biological parent would have to be terminated.

The North Gauteng High Court in its judgment said that the narrow interpretation does not protect or advance the rights and interests of children involved. On the contrary, the Children’s Act does not prevent a child from being “adoptable” merely because the child has a parent or guardian, and the person seeking to adopt the child is the spouse/permanent domestic life-partner of that guardian. The guardian of the child’s  parental rights and responsibilities are also not automatically terminated.

For more information please see the judgment below: