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Sixteen Old Enough to Banish Parental Knowledge
The respective rights of children and their parents has long been a tricky subject for the courts. A recent case on this topic involved a couple's adopted 16-year-old child, who was born female but wished to change gender and attended the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic. He changed his name to a male name by deed poll.
His adoptive parents did not come to terms with the decision and used his prior name in conversation with him, which caused him distress and made him decide that he wished them to have no information about his day-to-day life or about his attendance at and potential gender reassignment treatment from the Tavistock Clinic.
The adoptive parents applied to the court seeking to have periodic progress updates regarding their child as they hoped for an eventual reconciliation. He opposed this. The council placed him with foster carers and wished the court to advise it as to what extent it was (or was not) required to keep his parents informed.
In ruling on what is clearly a difficult and sad set of circumstances for all, Mr Justice Keehan accepted that the boy's decision to 'completely disengage from family life' with his adoptive parents was 'a decision he is perfectly entitled to reach and is one which this court must respect'.
Accordingly, the boy's application was granted, in his own best interests and also as a right under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – the right to respect for private and family life.
Children of this age are increasingly being treated by the courts as able to make their own decisions on major matters such as this, as well as on lesser ones.