Adoption

LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF ADOPTION

Adoption is the legal process by which individuals become a child's parents. It is a permanent step which gives the adoptive parent the same parental rights and responsibilities for the child that they would have if they were the biological parents.

The biological mother and father are no longer the child's legal parents and the child cannot be treated as their child.

In particular, the child will lose his or her rights to maintenance and inheritance from the biological parents.

An adoption order is the official document which cuts all legal ties between a child and their birth parents. The child legally becomes the adopters' (parties who wish to adopt) child as if the adopters were their biological parents. The biological mother and father are no longer the child's legal parents and the child cannot be treated as their child.

ADOPTING A CHILD OF YOUR PARTNER

You can apply to adopt your partner's legal children, for example if your partner already has children, or if you have conceived a child together but the law does not recognise you as a legal parent. You and your partner do not need to be married or in a civil partnership, but you must be living as partners in a long term family relationship.

Adopting a child is a permanent step which gives the adoptive parent all the same rights and responsibilities a biological parent has. It is however important to realise that whilst it will not affect your partner's legal rights and status, it will permanently extinguish the parenthood of any other parent your child has. It will also end their right to maintenance and inheritance from that parent.

If your relationship with the birth parent were to end, your legal responsibility to your adopted child would continue.

Adopting the child of your partner is only possible in certain circumstances.

It will not normally be possible for a step-parent to adopt their step-child if the non- resident parent is still a part of that child’s life. This is because the non-resident parent’s consent is required. The parent is often unwilling to give up their parental responsibility and legal relationship with their child. The importance of a child retaining as close a relationship as possible with both birth parents is well recognised by both the Courts and child development experts.

For these reasons step-parent adoptions may only be appropriate in limited circumstances such as where the other parent has died, is absent or cannot be found.

If step-parent adoption is not the best choice, you may want to think about acquiring parental responsibility instead.

When you adopt a step-child an Adoption Court Order will be made. This document states that you now have parental responsibility and are the legal parent of that child forever. The child then acquires legal rights against you for maintenance and inheritance.

PROCESS TO ADOPT A STEP-CHILD

If it is appropriate in your circumstances to adopt your step-child, you will have to apply for an Adoption Order. The first step is to give notice in writing to your local authority of your intention to apply for adoption.

You then apply for adoption by completing Form A58:
https://formfinder.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/a58-eng.pdf

Send it to the family court with the relevant documents and court fee.

You must wait at least three months (and not more than two years) after giving your notice to the local authority before you apply to court, and you must have lived with your child for at least six months.

The process is usually straightforward as long as everyone agrees. Your local authority will appoint a social worker to investigate the case and prepare a report for the court. In their report, they will make a recommendation as to what is in the child's best interests. The court will then decide the issue bearing in mind:

  • The children’s wishes and feelings and your partner’s/ex-partner’s views

  • The implications of ending the legal relationship between the child and one of their parents

  • What you want to achieve: to become the child’s legal parent forever or to share parental responsibility with the child’s parents, while the child is growing up as a child in a stepfamily.

PROCESS TO ADOPT AN UNCONNECTED CHILD FROM WITHIN THE UK

To adopt a child in the UK you must be at least 21 years old. You can adopt as a couple or a single person. You must be domiciled and habitually resident in a part of the British Islands. You must not have been convicted of certain offences (offences against children and sexual offences).

There are a couple of different routes you can take to adopting an unconnected child in the UK:

  • An adoption agency that is part of your local council; or

  • A voluntary adoption agency.

You should contact the adoption agencies who will then arrange to meet you and, if you and the agency are in agreement to continue, you will be asked to fill out an application form.

Once the agency receives your application form they will do the following:

  • Invite you to a series of preparation classes;

  • Arrange for a social worker to visit you to prepare a home study assessment;

  • Arrange a police check;

  • Require three referees to give you a personal reference; and

  • Arrange a full medical examination.

The social worker will then make a Prospective Adopters' Report and send it to an independent adoption panel who will make a recommendation about your suitability to adopt a child. The agency then makes a final decision on whether to approve you as an adopter.

Once you have been approved, the agency will begin the process of finding a child.

Once they find a child you will be given complete information about the child. If you wish to proceed, the agency will prepare an Adoption Placement Report. This recommends whether to approve the match. The match will then need to be approved by the adoption panel and confirmed by the agency decision maker. Once this is approved you and the child will gradually get to know one another before the child moves in with you.

The next step is to apply for an Adoption Order.

APPLYING FOR AN ADOPTION ORDER

To finally adopt an unconnected child, you need to apply for an Adoption Order. The child must have been with you for at least ten weeks before you can make this application. Your adoption social worker will help you complete this application.

Once you have made the application, the court will make standard directions listing a hearing, asking for the local authority to file a report, and directing that that the birth parents and/or others with parental responsibility file evidence if they wish to apply for permission to oppose.

If permission is given for the birth parents or others with parental responsibility to make an application to oppose the adoption, the court will list a contested hearing quickly to prevent delay. If there is no opposition to the adoption order or if any attempts to oppose have been unsuccessful then a hearing will be listed to make an adoption order. If all of the paperwork is correct, the court will generally make the adoption order at the first hearing.

Once the adoption order is granted, the court will consider listing a celebratory hearing. Celebratory hearings are an event to celebrate the adoption where family and friends come to the court room, the court organises a certificate and present for the child and the child's new birth certificate is issued.

PROCESS TO ADOPT AN UNCONNECTED CHILD FROM ABROAD

You can adopt a child from overseas if:

  • they can’t be cared for in a safe environment in their own country

  • the adoption would be in their best interests

  • the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK.

If you want to adopt a child from overseas, the first step is to contact your local authority. You will have to undergo the same assessment and evaluation process as you would for an adoption at home. It is important to follow the correct procedure.

Once the agency receives your application form they will do the following:

  • Invite you to a series of preparation classes;

  • Arrange for a social worker to visit you to prepare a home study assessment;

  • Arrange a police check;

  • Require three referees to give you a personal reference; and

  • Arrange a full medical examination.

The social worker will then make a Prospective Adopters' Report and send it to an independent adoption panel who will make a recommendation about your suitability to adopt a child. The agency then makes a final decision on whether to approve you as an adopter.

Once you have been approved, the agency will begin the process of finding a child. In some countries, it is important that you do not try to find a potential child before you reach this stage. How precisely the matching process works depends on your destination country and the rules that apply there. However, you will need to visit the child whom you propose to adopt and engage with your adoption agency in the UK as things proceed.

Depending on your destination country, you will either need to apply for adoption there, or bring your child back to the UK to adopt them here. You will need to obtain a British passport or entry clearance authorising your child to enter the UK before you travel. For further information follow this link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-how-adopted-children-can-become-british/intercountry-adoption-and-british-citizenship

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