At NJP Solicitors we have a team of family solicitors who can assist with adoption matters. We can help wherever you are based and can meet via video conference if required.
What is adoption, what is involved in applying for an adoption order, and what are the alternatives to adoption?
Free Initial Telephone Call
Adopting a Child
Adoption may be divided into two separate categories: private adoptions, where the person or persons applying for the adoption are private individuals, and adoptions involving looked-after children, where the applicant is a local authority.
This page is concerned only with private adoptions. Visit our page on the law in relation to looked-after children, if that is more relevant to your circumstances.
There are many different circumstances in which a private adoption may take place. It may, for example, involve a child who has no blood relationship to the adopters, or be a step-parent adoption, where one of the child’s parents has (re)married, and the parent’s new spouse wishes to adopt the child.
What is adoption?
An adoption order gives parental responsibility for a child to the adopters, who will then be able to make any decision in relation to the child that any other parent can make.
By the same token, the adoption order extinguishes the parental responsibility of any other person, save in the case where a step-parent adopts their partner’s child. It also extinguishes any duty to pay maintenance for the child, from the date of the adoption order.
An adopted child should be treated as the child of the adopter or adopters, rather than any other person. This remains the case even when the child has grown up.
An adopted child may retain contact with their birth family, but there is no legal requirement for this to happen.
Who can be adopted?
To be eligible for adoption a child must be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made, and must not be, or have ever been, married or in a civil partnership.
The child’s birth parents normally have to consent to the adoption, unless they cannot be found, they are incapable of giving consent (for example due to a mental disability), or the child would be put at risk if they were not adopted.
Who can adopt?
An application for an adoption order may be made by a couple or by a single person, provided that they are legally resident in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, and have been so for at least 12 months.
Where the application is by a couple both of them must have attained the age of 21 years, save where one of the couple is the mother or the father of the person to be adopted. In the latter case an adoption order may be made, provided that the mother/father has attained the age of 18 years, and the other applicant has attained the age of 21 years.
On the application of a single person an adoption order may be made if they have attained the age of 21 years, and are not married or in a civil partnership, save where the other spouse/civil partner cannot be found, the spouses/civil partners have permanently separated, or the spouse/civil partner is by reason of ill-health, whether physical or mental, incapable of making an application for an adoption order.
Procedure on an adoption application
The procedure on an adoption application will vary depending upon the circumstances, but the following should be noted:
The child must have lived with the applicants for a specified period before the application. The length of that period depends upon circumstances. For example, if the child was placed for adoption with the applicant or applicants by an adoption agency the child must have had their home with the applicant or, in the case of an application by a couple, with one or both of them at all times during the period of ten weeks preceding the application; and if the applicant or one of the applicants is the partner of a parent of the child, the child must have had their home with the applicant or, as the case may be, applicants at all times during the period of six months preceding the application.
If the child was not placed with the applicants by an adoption agency, the applicants must notify in writing the local authority for the area in which they live of their intention to apply for an adoption order. The must give the local authority notice of their intention not more than two years, and not less than three months, before the date of the application.
The application is begun by the filing of an application form with the court, along with the appropriate fee. Amongst other things, the court will then request the adoption agency or local authority to prepare a report for the court giving details about the child, the applicants, any parent or guardian of the child and other background information that may help the court decide whether it should make an adoption order.
When it is ready to proceed, the court will fix a final hearing, at which the adoption order will be made, if the court considers that this is best for the child’s welfare.
The court will send a copy of the adoption order to the applicants and to the General Register Office, who use the information contained in the order to make an entry in the Adopted Children Register. A new birth certificate is then produced in the child’s adoptive name. This is known as an adoption certificate and replaces the original birth certificate for all legal purposes.
Alternatives to adoption
There are two possible alternatives to an adoption order:
Child arrangements order – An order stating with whom the child should live. Also gives parental responsibility to that person, or those persons. The child’s parents may still have contact with the child, and will share parental responsibility. The parents may apply to vary or discharge the order. Lasts until the child is 18 years old.
Special guardianship order – An order placing the child with someone permanently, and giving that person parental responsibility for the child. The child will normally retain a relationship with their birth family, including having contact with their parents. The child’s parents will continue to have parental responsibility, but it will be limited, meaning that the special guardian will be able to take many decisions relating to the child, without needing the approval of the parents. The parents may apply to vary or discharge the order, but only with the permission of the court. Lasts until the child is 18 years old.
If you wish to apply for an adoption order then we recommend that you take advice from an expert family solicitor.