The appellant, an unwed mother, gave her son up for adoption a few days after his birth to a couple carefully chosen by her. Less than three months later, appellant requested the child's return and, when the respondent adoptive parents refused, she revoked her consent to the still incomplete adoption and sought an order restoring him to her custody. The trial judge dismissed the application as he found her "unmindful of her parental duties" because of her surrender of the child to the respondents. He then considered the welfare of the child, and found that, although both parties could provide the child with satisfactory upbringing, the child's best interests would not be served by returning him to his natural mother. The benefits to the child of maintaining the blood ties to his natural mother were outweighed by those resulting from maintenance of his present home stability and his existing parental bonds to the adoptive parents. The majority of the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment.
- Which party should be granted custody?
McIntyre, writing for the court, held that this case may be dealt with on the general consideration of the welfare of the child. Where the governing statute preserves and dictates the application of the rules of equity, when the court exercises its parens patriae jurisdiction in questions of contested custody, including contests between a natural parent and adoptive parents, it must consider the welfare of the child the predominant factor and give it effect in reaching its determination.
The welfare of the child must be decided on a consideration of all relevant factors, including the general psychological, spiritual and emotional welfare of the child. The Court must choose the course which will best provide for the healthy growth, development and education of the child so that he will be equipped to face the problems of life as a mature adult. Parental claims must be seriously considered but must be set aside where the welfare of the child requires it.
- The best interests of child, including principles of consistency and stability, places a major emphasis on bonding.
- The biological parent should be given great weight, but should be weighed against the welfare of the child generally.