A Canberra man who sought to adopt his adult stepdaughter has had his application stalled because it falls between the cracks of outdated legislation, a judge has said.
The 24-year-old woman had been under the man's care since she was just under two years old. She wanted to be formally adopted by him before she got married, when he made an application that came before the ACT Supreme Court.
In making his decision to adjourn the application, Acting Justice Robert Crowe said he was bound by entirely unsatisfactory jurisdictional technicalities.
While it was clear the woman had been "reared, maintained and educated" by her stepfather, a residency requirement meant both her and the man had to live in the same jurisdiction for the adoption to go ahead. The man lived just on the NSW side of the ACT/NSW border, while his stepdaughter lived in the territory, Acting Justice Crowe said in his judgement.
"I would have concluded that it was entirely appropriate to make the adoption order desired by the family," he said.
"[The technicalities] owe their existence to the provisions being drafted in an era when family members were far less mobile than they are today.
"We now live in an Australia where it is commonplace for families to reside across state boundaries, and the legislative scheme should be equipped to deal with this reality."
The rule might be relevant in adoption cases involving children under 18, but it was "difficult" to understand why it should also apply to the adoption of adults, Acting Justice Crowe said.
He adjourned the matter in the hopes that some other legislative resolution might be found for the "unfortunate conundrum". One possibility could be the stepdaughter moving to NSW for more than three months and the man renewing the adoption application.