Following the conclusion of Care proceedings and where a child has been placed for adoption, a parent may only oppose the making of an adoption order with leave of the court. A parent’s application seeking leave of the court will have two stages. Firstly, the court needs to be satisfied, on the facts, that there has been a change of circumstances within section 47(7) Adoption and Children Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”). Secondly, if there has been such a change, the court will then need to consider the application of section 1 of the 2002 Act to the facts of the case with the paramount consideration of the court being the child’s welfare throughout their life.
Importantly, the 2002 Act does not require that the change of circumstances is ‘significant’ and it can embrace a wide range of factual situations. The Court of Appeal in Re P (Adoption: Leave Provisions)  2FLR 1069, CA held that whilst the test must not be set too high, any such change must be of a nature and degree sufficient to “open the door to the exercise of the judicial discretion to permit (the parents) to defend the adoption proceedings”, per Wall LJ at paragraph 30 of the judgment.
In Re B-S (Adoption: Application of s. 47(5)  1 FLR 1035 the President, Sir James Munby, set out what the court’s approach should be at paragraphs 72 to 74 of his judgment:
 Subject only to one point which does not affect the substance, the law, in our judgment, was correctly set out by Wall LJ in Re P, though we fear it may on occasions have been applied too narrowly and indeed too harshly. The only qualification is that the exercise at the second stage is more appropriately described as one of judicial evaluation rather than as one involving mere discretion.
 There is a two stage process. The court has to ask itself two questions: Has there been a change in circumstances? If so, should leave to oppose be given? In relation to the first question we think it unnecessary and undesirable to add anything to what Wall LJ said.
 In relation to the second question – If there has been a change in circumstances, should leave to oppose be given? – the court will, of course, need to consider all the circumstances. The court will in particular have to consider two inter-related questions: one, the parent’s ultimate prospect of success if given leave to oppose; the other, the impact on the child if the parent is, or is not, given leave to oppose, always remembering, of course, that at this stage the child’s welfare is paramount. In relation to the evaluation, the weighing and balancing, of these factors we make the following points:
(i) Prospect of success here relates to the prospect of resisting the making of an adoption order, not, we emphasise, the prospect of ultimately having the child restored to the parent’s care.
(ii) For purposes of exposition and analysis we treat as two separate issues the questions of whether there has been a change in circumstances and whether the parent has solid grounds for seeking leave. Almost invariably, however, they will be intertwined; in many cases the one may very well follow from the other.
(iii) Once he or she has got to the point of concluding that there has been a change of circumstances and that the parent has solid grounds for seeking leave, the judge must consider very carefully indeed whether the child’s welfare really does necessitate the refusal of leave. The judge must keep at the forefront of his mind the teaching of Re B, in particular that adoption is the ‘last resort’ and only permissible if ‘nothing else will do’ and that, as Lord Neuberger emphasised, the child’s interests include being brought up by the parents or wider family unless the overriding requirements of the child’s welfare make that not possible. That said, the child’s welfare is paramount.
(iv) At this, as at all other stages in the adoption process, the judicial evaluation of the child’s welfare must take into account all the negatives and the positives, all the pros and cons, of each of the two options, that is, either giving or refusing the parent leave to oppose. Here again, as elsewhere, the use of Thorpe LJ’s ‘balance sheet’ is to be encouraged.
(v) This close focus on the circumstances requires that the court has proper evidence. But this does not mean that judges will always need to hear oral evidence and cross-examination before coming to a conclusion. Sometimes, though we suspect not very often, the judge will be assisted by oral evidence. Typically, however, an application for leave under s 47(5) can fairly and should appropriately be dealt with on the basis of written evidence and submissions: see Re P paras –.
(vi) As a general proposition, the greater the change in circumstances (assuming, of course, that the change is positive) and the more solid the parent’s grounds for seeking leave to oppose, the more cogent and compelling the arguments based on the child’s welfare must be if leave to oppose is to be refused.
(vii) The mere fact that the child has been placed with prospective adopters cannot be determinative, nor can the mere passage of time. On the other hand, the older the child and the longer the child has been placed the greater the adverse impacts of disturbing the arrangements are likely to be.
(viii) The judge must always bear in mind that what is paramount in every adoption case is the welfare of the child ‘throughout his life’. Given modern expectation of life, this means that, with a young child, one is looking far ahead into a very distant future – upwards of eighty or even ninety years. Against this perspective, judges must be careful not to attach undue weight to the short term consequences for the child if leave to oppose is given. In this as in other contexts, judges should be guided by what Sir Thomas Bingham MR said in Re O (Contact: Imposition of Conditions)  2 FLR 124, 129, that: ‘the court should take a medium-term and long-term view of the child’s development and not accord excessive weight to what appear likely to be short-term or transient problems.’ That was said in the context of contact but it has a much wider resonance: Re G (Education: Religious Upbringing)  EWCA Civ 1233,  1 FLR 677, para .
(ix) Almost invariably the judge will be pressed with the argument that leave to oppose should be refused, amongst other reasons, because of the adverse impact on the prospective adopters, and thus on the child, of their having to pursue a contested adoption application. We do not seek to trivialise an argument which may in some cases have considerable force, particularly perhaps in a case where the child is old enough to have some awareness of what is going on. But judges must be careful not to attach undue weight to the argument. After all, what from the perspective of the proposed adopters was the smoothness of the process which they no doubt anticipated when issuing their application with the assurance of a placement order, will already have been disturbed by the unwelcome making of the application for leave to oppose. And the disruptive effects of an order giving a parent leave to oppose can be minimised by firm judicial case management before the hearing of the application for leave. If appropriate directions are given, in particular in relation to the expert and other evidence to be adduced on behalf of the parent, as soon as the application for leave is issued and before the question of leave has been determined, it ought to be possible to direct either that the application for leave is to be listed with the substantive adoption application to follow immediately, whether or not leave is given, or, if that is not feasible, to direct that the substantive application is to be listed, whether or not leave has been given, very shortly after the leave hearing.
(x) We urge judges always to bear in mind the wise and humane words of Wall LJ in Re P, para . We have already quoted them but they bear repetition: ‘the test should not be set too high, because … parents … should not be discouraged either from bettering themselves or from seeking to prevent the adoption of their child by the imposition of a test which is unachievable.’
In Re W (Adoption Order: Leave to Oppose); Re H (Adoption Order: Application for Permission for Leave to Oppose)  1 FLR 1266 Sir James Munby again addressed the second stage and focused upon whether the parent’s prospects of success have ‘solidity’. He said this:
 In addressing the second question, the judge must first consider and evaluate the parent’s ultimate prospects of success if given leave to oppose. The key issue here (Re B-S, para ) is whether the parent’s prospects of success are more than just fanciful, whether they have solidity. If the answer to that question is no, that will be the end of the matter. It would not merely be a waste of time and resources to allow a contested application in such circumstances; it would also give false hope to the parents and cause undue anxiety and concern to the prospective adopted parents. The reader of the judgment must be able to see that the judge has grappled with this issue and must be able to understand, at least in essentials, what the judge’s view is and why the judge has come to his conclusion. The mere fact that the judge does not use the words ‘solid’ or ‘solidity’ will not, without more, mean that an appeal is likely to succeed, for example, if the judge uses language, whatever it may be, which shows that the parent fails to meet the test. So if a judge, as Parker J did in Re B-S, adopts McFarlane J’s words (see Re B-S, para ) and describes the prospect of parental success as being ‘entirely improbable’ that will suffice, as indeed it did in Re B-S itself, always assuming that the judge’s conclusion is adequately explained in the judgment.
 In evaluating the parent’s ultimate prospects of success if given leave to oppose, the judge has to remember that the child’s welfare is paramount and must consider the child’s welfare throughout his life. In evaluating what the child’s welfare demands the judge will bear in mind what has happened in the past, the current state of affairs and what will or may happen in the future. There will be cases, perhaps many cases, where, despite the change in circumstances, the demands of the child’s welfare are such as to lead the judge to the conclusion that the parent’s prospects of success lack solidity. Re B-S is a clear and telling example; so earlier was Re C (Adoption Proceedings: Change of Circumstances)  EWCA Civ 431,  2 FLR 1393.
 If the parent is able to demonstrate solid prospects of success, the focus of the second stage of the process narrows very significantly. The court must ask whether the welfare of the child will be so adversely affected by an opposed, in contrast to an unopposed, application that leave to oppose should be refused. This is unlikely to be the situation in most cases given that the court has, ex hypothesis, already concluded that the child’s welfare might ultimately best be served by refusing to make an order for adoption. To repeat what I said in Re B-S (para (iii)):
‘Once he or she has got to the point of concluding that there has been a change of circumstances and that the parent has solid grounds for seeking leave, the judge must consider very carefully indeed whether the child’s welfare really does necessitate the refusal of leave. The judge must keep at the forefront of his mind the teaching of Re B, in particular that adoption is the “last resort” and only permissible if “nothing else will do”.’
If leave to oppose is given, the court will go on to consider at a contested hearing whether the parent’s consent should be dispensed with. If leave to oppose is refused, the making of the adoption order should not be made until time to appeal the refusal has expired.