Step parent adoption image
Step parent adoption image


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Parental responsibilities for step-parents

Families can often change following a relationship breakdown and/or divorce. Often, new partners become part of the larger blended family. These new partners can become the de facto parents of children.

Yet many step-parents do not have parental responsibility for the children for whom they are caring for in these new blended families.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility means all of the rights and responsibilities that a parent has for a child in law. Practical examples include the right to speak with the child’s doctor, make decisions regarding medical treatment, make decisions regarding education and religious upbringing and the name by which they are known.

It enables a parent to make the day-to-day decisions regarding a child and enable that parent to discuss decisions relating to their upbringing with any professionals involved with the child.

Why adoption?

When considering the status of a step-parent, couples often consider step-parent adoption.

Adoption is a permanent step and a draconian Order, which gives the adoptive parent the same parental rights and responsibilities for a child that they would have if they were the biological parent.

It can allow a family a mechanism to ensure that the practical reality of their lives and relationships are reflected in law. This can be important for a number of reasons, both sentimental and practical, such as considerations in respect of inheritance.

The effects of step-parent adoption

A step-parent adoption will extinguish the parental responsibility of the parent being “replaced” by virtue of the adoption Order. For example, a step-father applying for a step-parent adoption Order will become the legal father of the child concerned, and the existing legal father (usually the biological father) will lose their legal relationship with the child. All legal ties with the birth father will be severed and the legal relationship is extinguished. The legal (birth) Mother’s legal relationship with the child remains uninterrupted. The step-parent adoption Order is unique in this sense, in preserving the legal relationship of the partner or spouse of the applicant and the child concerned. All other adoption Orders extinguish the parental responsibility of anyone else who holds it at the time the Order is made.

Once a child has been adopted they will have the same rights to inherit from their adoptive parent as they would do it they were a biological legal child of that adoptive parent. The adoptive parent will have the same child maintenance liabilities towards their adopted child, as they would do if they were a biological legal parent. If, a couple marry, and one party adopts the other party’s child, and they go onto separate and divorce, the adoption Order will endure.

Whether to adopt a child if you are their step-parent

In making your decision about whether or not to adopt your step-child, you should have regard to the following:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings
  • The other legal/birth parent’s wishes and feelings and whether they will consent to the making of an Order
  • The consequences of ending the child’s legal relationship with the other parent and their wider family on that side i.e. grandparents
  • The reasons for wanting to seek to adopt the step-child and the impact on that child of the adoption throughout their life

Alternatives to step-parent adoption

There are alternatives to step-parent adoption Orders which include:

  • A Parental Responsibility Agreement;
  • A Parental Responsibility Order;
  • A Child Arrangement Order

Rayden Solicitors can advise in relation to Parental Responsibility Agreements, Orders and/or Child Arrangement Orders. If you have any questions regarding the alternatives to step-parent adoption, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Rayden Solicitors is committed to equality and diversity and in doing so supports and advises all members of our community.

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