Adopting a step-child
The adoption process, for those of us who don’t know much about it, seems like a minefield.
If you are a separated parent who wants their new partner to adopt your child, or if you’re wanting to adopt your step-child, you will no doubt have many questions.
Read on for some commonly asked questions about adoption.
- How do I start the adoption process?
You need to tell the local council if you want to adopt your partner’s child. This needs to be done at least 3 months before applying to a court for an adoption order.
The Local Authority (via a social worker) will carry out an investigation of the circumstances to provide a report to the Court on the suitability of the applicants and any other relevant matters. The report will include a recommendation about whether or not an Adoption Order should be granted. This will include getting references from the Criminal Records Bureau, the Child Protection Register, Health Department, Education Department (including the child’s school) and the N.S.P.C.C.
- Does the adopting parent need to live with the child?
The child must have lived with both the birth and adoptive parent for at least 6 months.
- Does the other natural parent need to give consent?
Yes, unless the court decides this is not necessary, there need to be very good reasons to dispense with consent.
- How involved does the other parent have to be in the adoption process?
Usually very involved. The Local Authority will need to contact the other birth parent and anyone else who may be affected by the application. The social worker will need to talk to the parents, those with parental responsibility and the child, as well as any other birth children, even if they do not live with the applicant. The court will wish to know the views of both birth parents including what role they might intend to play in the child’s life. Their current relationships with the child, or the amount of contact they have with the child.
If the application is not contested by the other natural parent, the Court will appoint a Reporting Officer from Cafcass whose role will be to ensure that those parents with parental responsibility have given their agreement freely and with an understanding of the implications. They will read the social worker’s report and meet birth parents with parental responsibility to witness their formal signed consent.
- What if the other parent is against the adoption?
If the application is contested the Court will appoint a Children’s Guardian (again from Cafcass) whose role will be to act on behalf of the child to promote their welfare throughout the Court proceedings. They will speak to the child, birth parents, applicant, social worker and any other person they consider relevant. They will prepare an independent report stating what the Guardian considers to be in the best interests of the child’s welfare.
The Court will make the final decision. The paramount consideration of the court must be the child’s welfare throughout their life.
The court views adoption from the child's perspective rather than the adult's. What an adult wants is taken into account, but an adoption order will only be granted if it is viewed as being in the best interests of the child.
- Is the adoptive process different for same sex parents?
No, but only if the court is satisfied that the applicant is the partner of the birth parent or in a civil partnership with the birth parent.
Thanks to Cafcass for providing the information for this article. Get more information on adopting a step child on the Cafcass website.
Being a step-parent can be tough. If you are struggling with your role in a step family, read our tips for when your partner has children from another relationship.