Not recognising bilateral step-parenthood is unconstitutional, court rules

Not recognising bilateral step-parenthood is unconstitutional, court rules
Credit: Belga

The impossibility of recognising “bilateral step-parenthood” is not constitutional, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling came in response to a preliminary question from the Antwerp Family Court, which had to rule on the adoption of two adults by the partner of their deceased mother, with whom she had been a couple since 1982 and whom she had married in 2018.

The stepfather wanted to adopt the children: over the years a lasting bond had been established between them and he said he wished them to enjoy a “favourable inheritance status.”

No one was opposed to the adoption, neither the stepfather's son from a previous marriage, who regarded the adoption applicants as his sister and brother, nor the applicants’ legal father and his new wife, with whom they enjoyed a good relationship.

The public prosecutor, however, raised a legal objection: the prospective adoption candidates had already been adopted by their father’s new wife in 1996.

The Civil Code imposes strict conditions on new adoptions, such as the death of the previous adopters, revision or revocation of the previous adoption, or serious reasons requiring a new adoption.

The question therefore arises as to whether the provision complies with the principle of equality, non-discrimination and respect for private and family life, since a first adoption by a step-parent renders a subsequent one – and therefore the “recognition of bilateral step-parenthood” – impossible.

The Court held that the prohibition was disproportionate to the Civil Code’s objective of guaranteeing the stability of kinship ties and the family circle.

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