Family looks different for everyone, and it is not uncommon for a child to be raised by a biological parent and their new partner, acting as a ‘step’ parent. For some families there comes a time when they wish to legalise this relationship, by having the step-parent adopt the child.
What does an Adoption Order do?
An Adoption Order grants Parental Responsibility for a child to the step-parent, and simultaneously extinguishes Parental Responsibility, and all other legal ties, with the child’s other birth parent who is not involved, and the wider family on that side.
The Court has jurisdiction to make an Adoption Order until a child’s 19th birthday, providing the application itself is filed before the child turns 18. The wishes and feelings of the child will be of great interest to the Court; the older the child, the more weight the Court will attach to their wishes and feelings. If the other biological parent, whose rights are being extinguished, does not give consent to the adoption Order, the Court must consider whether the welfare of the child dictates dispensing with that consent. The Court has to balance a number of factors, including the Human Rights of the Applicant step-parent, the child and the biological parent who will lose their legal relationship with the child, should the application succeed.
After an Adoption Order is made, the step-parent is the child’s legal parent throughout their life. This has long term implications, for example, the child loses their right to inherit from any birth parent with whom their legal relationship is severed and becomes entitled to inherit – in a way that is identical to that of a biological child – from the step-parent whom the order was made in favour of.
Adoption Orders are final; they cannot be revoked save for in incredibly rare and exceptional circumstances.
Does the birth parent of my step-child have to be involved?
The birth parent of the child will usually need to be served with a copy of your application for an Adoption Order and given notice of any hearings in the matter. They will be invited to consent to the Adoption Order being made but can object if they so wish. The Court can only dispense with the need for their consent if they cannot be found, or if the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with; as is highlighted above, there are a number of factors for the Court to consider when looking at dispensing with consent.
How do I obtain an Adoption Order for my step child?
Before you can apply for an Adoption Order in respect of your step child you must:
- be 21 years of age or over;
- be married to the resident birth parent, or be living with the resident birth parent in an enduring family relationship;
- be domiciled in part of the British Isles
- reside in the British Isles or have been habitually resident here for at least a year ending with the date of the application;
- have been continually living with the child for at least 6 months;
- have notified the local authority in writing of your intention to apply to court for an adoption order at least 3 months before submitting an application to the court;
- ensure the child is younger than 18 years of age on the date the application is submitted.
Once 3 months has passed since giving notice to the Local Authority, you can submit your application to the Court using the Form A58. The Court process will likely consist of 2 or 3 hearings, we can offer specialist advice to help you navigate this system.