Adoption and the law

Adoption is a complex process and has significant legal implications, so it’s especially important you find good legal advice. Because it concerns the welfare of a child, there are many laws regarding adoption, all of which are very strict.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal procedure in which all parental responsibility transfers to the adopters. The process is a way of providing new homes for children whose parents cannot bring them up. Once the authorities grant an adoption, it cannot be reversed so it is essential that you get the right advice.

The biological parents of an adopted child lose all legal ties with them. The child will then become a full member of their adoptive family and usually take the family's surname.

There are several types of adoption, including:

  • Domestic adoption
    In England and Wales, this involves a child by a family member or by the local authority.
  • International adoption
    This involves the adopted child travelling from a country outside England and Wales whose adopters are resident here.
  • Step-parent adoption
  • Foster parent adoption.

Who can be adopted?

To be eligible for adoption, a child must:

  • be under the age of 18.
  • be unmarried and not in a civil partnership (they must not have ever been in such a relationship).
  • have adoption consent from their parents – the exception here is when the natural parents cannot be found, or are incapable of giving consent (eg. due to mental disability).
  • not be put at risk if they are adopted.

Can I adopt a child?

You may be able to adopt a child if you are over the age of 21. You can be single, married, in a civil partnership, or the partner of the child’s parent. Unmarried couples are also eligible to adopt, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

You do not have to be a British citizen to adopt a child. However, you or your partner must have been living permanently in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for 12 months or more.

What does the process involve?

To adopt a child you can go through either an adoption agency linked to your local council, or a voluntary adoption agency. As previously stated, adoption is a complex process, but at its most basic, the procedure involves the following steps:

  • Contacting the adoption agency – they will send you more information about the adoption process.
  • Meeting with the agency – you may be invited to attend meeting with others who wish to adopt a child.
  • Application – if you and the agency agree you are eligible to adopt, they will give you an application form.

The adoption approval process usually takes six months. This involves a thorough adoption assessment of your suitability. You may then be matched with a child to adopt. 

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I want to adopt my step-child - is the process different?

If you wish to adopt the child of your partner or spouse, you must inform your local council that you wish to do so. You must do this at least three months before applying for an adoption order from the court. The child must also have been living with both of you for at least six months.

I don't want my child to be adopted - can I stop it?

You can stop the adoption process up to the point where those wishing to adopt your child apply for an adoption order through the courts, after they’ve applied to adopt and been approved.

To retain your parental rights, you may have to go to an adoption court to fight your case. When assessing your right to maintain legal links with your child, the court will consider an assessment from an independent social worker. The social worker’s job is to safeguard the interests of your child on behalf of the court by meeting with you. The ways in which they assess your case include the following:

  • Gaining an understanding of the reasons why you don’t want the adoption to go ahead.
  • Reporting your views to the court.

You can go to the court yourself if you wish to explain why you don’t want your child to be adopted. The court cannot make an adoption order unless it believes that doing so is in the best interests of the child. They will have to consider your views in deciding this.

I need legal help with adoption - what do I do next?

Whatever your interest in the adoption process, it is highly advisable that you seek legal advice so you know where you stand.

First4Lawyers can help whether you wish to adopt, stop an adoption, or contest a ruling on your suitability to adopt.

We can assign an expert family lawyer to your case, who will have a wealth experience in adoption law and can provide you with all the legal help and advice you need.

Get in touch today to discuss your requirements 08005677866

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