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The 21st century has encouraged the use of social media so much so that Facebook has now been acknowledged as a mechanism to be used in locating prospective parties to proceedings.

In the case of Re T (A Child) [2017] EWFC 19, Mr Justice Holman adjourned a final hearing that was listed to consider an adoption application because the birth mother had not been served with notice of the prospective adopter’s application. Under FPR 14.3 the Respondents to an adoption application should be parents who have parental responsibility, unless they consent to the adoption* or give notice that they do not wish to be informed about the application**. The father had been validly served with the application and successfully sought leave to oppose the application. During the proceedings it became clear that the mother had not been served with notice of the application as the applicant and local authority did not have information as to her updating address. Limited efforts had been made to locate her until the father’s partner found her on Facebook. Mr Justice Holman ordered that the proceedings could only proceed once the mother had been served and held that:

‘Facebook may well be a route to somebody such as a birth parent whose whereabouts are unknown and who requires to be served with notice of adoption proceedings. I do not for one moment suggest that Facebook should be the first method used, but it does seem to be a useful tool in the armoury which can certainly be resorted to long before a conclusion is reached that it is impossible to locate the whereabouts of a birth parent.’^

Therefore, it is clear that the courts will not deem that all reasonable avenues have been pursued in regards to locating a party to proceedings if a simple Facebook search has not been completed. Should this route, as a last resort, fail, at that point an application should be made to the courts for permission to dispense with service.

Jessica Johnston and Shevonne Weir

—————————-

*Adoption and Children Act 2002, s.20 (2)
**Adoption and Children Act 2002, s.20 (4) (a)
^Re T (A Child) [2017] EWFC 19 [21]

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