1. Adopting a step-child or partner's child
Families come in all shapes and sizes, as new relationships form it is not uncommon for a parent to want to share some parental responsibility. If you are unsure, you can find out what parental responsibility means. There is more than one way to do this but adoption is often seen as a way to get parental responsibility; it is often not the best way.
The easiest way to give your new partner or another member of the family parental responsibility is by completing a parental responsibility agreement. This works well where everyone with parental responsibility agrees to share it with another adult.
Where those with parental responsibility cannot agree then you may need the assistance of the court to get parental responsibility extended to your new partner or other. A Child Arrangement Order gives your partner or other parental responsibility of the child up to the age of 16 years. (18 years if the child has disabilities). This is of a sufficient level to carry out the day to day tasks of parenting. This is quicker than adoption and is sufficient, in our view, for the majority of families. This is dealt with by the court and usually does not require involvement from social services, you can find the relevant information on Child Arrangement Orders.
For those parents wishing to change a child surname, adoption is not required and this can be achieved via a change of name.
We advise you to fully explore the options above prior to considering adoption; they are quicker, easier and in our view, often more suitable than applying for an adoption order. By law you are required to notify the local authority in writing 16 weeks prior to applying to the court for an adoption order.
Adoption orders and how they are different from other orders
An adoption order takes away the legal relationship between the non-resident parent and the child. This is includes the extended family of the non-resident parent, this means Granny is no longer Granny etc. It also creates a new legal relationship between the adopter and this child which make the adopter a full legal parent of the child for the rest of their lives. Similarly new legal relationships are created in the adopter’s extended family. Also should you end your relationship with your partner (step-parent) the adoption means they continue to be the full legal parent to that child with as many rights as you have. Adoption doesn’t end because your relationship does
A Child Arrangement Order and, a Parental Responsibility Agreement, also creates new legal relationships but do not extinguish the legal role of the absent birth parent nor their family.
Adoption orders require a full and thorough social work assessment of your family and consultation with the non-resident parent. This means that you can expect a full check of your suitability to adopt including a criminal record check. A social worker will, visit your home on a number of occasions, speak to all children involved, other family members and the non-resident parent. The social workers role is to make a recommendation to the court as to what is in the child’s best interest; they may or may not recommend adoption.
Frequently asked questions about adoption by step parents or relatives
But I have decided that adoption is right for my child, isn't that enough?
No. Adoption is not a decision for parents it is one for the court; simply deciding you want your child to be adopted by your new partner is not enough in law. The law is clear; an adoption order will only be made where it is the best interest of a child to do so. This means that you could apply for adoption order but the court may decide that another legal order or no order at all.
Many adults tend to forget that adoption is about what is best for the child. What adults want is relevant, but the Court will prioritise the welfare of the child when it makes its decision. Just because, you have married a new partner or, because you see it as a nice thing to do, is not enough
Do I have to get the absent parent's agreement to the adoption?
If the absent parent is the mother: You will need her agreement. A court can dispense with the need for her agreement but there have to be very good reasons for them to do so.
If the absent parent is the father and he was married to the child’s mother: You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with the need for his agreement but there will have to be very good reasons for them to do so.
If the absent parent is the father and he was not married to the mother but has Parental Responsibility: You will need his agreement. A court can dispense with his agreement but there will have to be very good reasons for them to do so.
Will the other parent have to be involved?
Irrespective of the birth parents legal status, the court will require a report to be completed and wherever possible will find out the views of both birth parents including what role they might intend to play in the child’s life. This can also include extended family members who have, or would like to have a relationship with the child. Your current relationship with him or her, or the amount of contact they have with the child will not remove the responsibility for finding out their views, and reporting them back to the Court.
Do I have to be married to my partner to adopt their child?
No. You do not have to be married to adopt the children of your partner. We will be unlikely to consider relationships that have lasted for less than two years suitable. Equally if you are in the process of divorcing the absent parent then this should be completed prior to considering adoption
Do I need a solicitor?
You may find some legal advice helpful but a solicitor is not normally needed for an application by a step parent unless the adoption is opposed or there are complicated issues; but you have the right to have a solicitor if you wish.
If you still consider that adoption may be in the best interests of the child then ask the applicant (the person who wants to adopt) to please call 01494 58 66 26, for an informal discussion of your family’s circumstances with our duty social worker.