If you, or someone you know, are hoping to adopt a bundle of joy into the family, there is, of course, more to the process than a fly-by stork drop. The Adoption Act 1955 sets out each step to becoming an adopted child's legal guardian.
Can I Adopt?
To be considered eligible as a potential adoptive parent, you must be at least one of the following;
If you are a sole male applicant, you are not permitted to adopt a female child unless the Court is satisfied that either you are the child's father or there are special circumstances which justify making an adoption order in your favour.
Who can I Adopt?
An adoptive parent may adopt a child, defined by the Adoption Act as a person under the age of 20. It also includes any person over the age of 20 who is already the subject of an interim adoption order, which lasts for one year.
Special circumstances may exist where an adoptive parent wishes to adopt an adult child. For instance, a step-parent who has raised their step-child as their own may wish to be legally recognised as their parent. There may also be some motivation to adopt a child to ensure they benefit from an estate or trust. However, as the Act only allows children under 20, or older persons already subject to an interim order, to be adopted, you would need to petition Parliament to enact a private statute specifically enabling your proposed adoption to take place. This is understandably very rare.
What is the Process?
Potential adoptive parents must apply to the Family Court for an adoption order. It is free to apply, as there are no fees. In addition to your reasons for wanting to adopt, your application must include details relating to your health, financial, family and other relevant personal circumstances, in addition to the other supporting documentation which we can discuss with you.
If the Court grants your application, it will typically make an interim order which lasts for 12 months, before a final order is made. However, once the interim order has been in place for six months, or earlier if there are special circumstances, you can ask for a final order.
Alternatively, the Court may simply make a final order in the first instance if the applicant has satisfied all criteria.
Before making an adoption order, the Court must have evidence of consent from the child's biological parents (this means surrogate mothers are legally recognised as the child's parent and must consent) and their existing legal guardians, a social worker, and the spouse or partner of the applicant if you make an application by yourself instead of jointly. Notwithstanding this, consent may be dispensed with if there are suitable reasons to do so, for instance if the child has been neglected or poorly treated by their current parent or guardian.
Overall, the Court needs to be satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person who will support the child's welfare and best interests before it can make an adoption order. Once you have been granted a final adoption order - congratulations. It was more than a stork delivery, but that bundle is now yours.
As each case is individually assessed, it is best to seek specialist legal advice. If you are seeking advice or any questions or concerns about this topic, please contact:
See our Expertise page
© McVeagh Fleming 2018
This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.