When Louise Westra and her partner decided to adopt a child in November 2018, they were aware of the long process that was ahead of them, but they were not to know that the coronavirus pandemic would hold them back from completing the adoption of their son.
On 27 March, their petition was due in court. As lockdown had taken effect, telephone conferencing would be used instead of going to court.
However, after the phone call, Ms Westra received an email from her solicitor explaining that the papers had not been served to the biological parents of the child. This continued every month after lockdown, as it wasn’t possible for the papers to be physically served.
“It’s farcical because one of them is the biological father who lives with the biological mother who has had her petition but the biological father hasn’t and they live in the same premises,” Ms Westra says.
Serving papers has to be completed by post via Royal Mail or in some cases lawyers would instruct a process server to physically take the papers and hand them to the person.
“It sounds very archaic but if [the person] won’t take them by hand, the processor can drop the papers near them and tell them what the document contains and that’s technically counted as full service,” says Rebecca Ranson, a solicitor for Maguire Family Law.
Unless a judge approves it, emailing or any other forms of digital communication are not considered valid – even though the majority of people in the UK have access to email and the internet. It is this kind of process, in need of a digital upgrade, that is frustrating for Ms Westra.
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