Step Parent Adoption
If you wish to adopt your partner's children so that you become their legal parent and share parental responsibility for them, this is called step-parent adoption.
Adoption is not necessarily appropriate in all step-parent situations. The local authority has a duty to investigate the circumstances and prepare and present a report of their findings to Court.
What is step-parent adoption?
Adoption offers the child a legally permanent relationship with the adoptive parent which they will have all their lives. It means that the resident birth parent and their partner share parental responsibility for the child. There is no automatic right to adoption and it is not appropriate for every child in a step-family. An adoption order is permanent and cannot be revoked. A new birth certificate is issued and all legal ties with the non birth parent are severed.
Alternatives to step-parent adoption
There are alternatives to step-parent adoption that may more appropriately secure the child’s place in your family. A step-parent who is married to the resident parent can acquire parental responsibility by entering into a formal agreement with all those with parental responsibility or by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order or a Child Arrangements Order. The Court, therefore, has a number of options at its disposal:
- Adoption Order
- Parental Responsibility Order
- Parental Responsibility Agreement
- Child Arrangements Order
- Not making an Order
The surname used by a child can be changed by deed poll if all those with parental responsibility are in agreement.
Who can apply for step-parent adoption?
You can apply to be an adoptive parent either individually or jointly with someone else. You do not have to be married. You can apply to the Court for step-parent adoption if all of the following criteria are met:
- The applicant is 21 or over;
- The applicant is married to the resident birth parent, or the applicant is living with the resident birth parent in an enduring family relationship;
- The applicant resides in the British Isles or has been habitually resident there for at least one year;
- The applicant has been continually living with the child for at least 6 months;
- The applicant has notified the local authority in writing of their intention to apply to Court for an adoption order at least 3 months before submitting an application to Court;
- Due to the demands on the service you may have to wait for a suitably knowledgeable assessing social worker to become available to undertake your assessment;
- The child is not yet 18 at the time of application to Court (although the Court can make an order up to the day before the person’s 19th birthday).
The child must be able to understand the implications of their adoption, what it means, and understand their birth history. This is generally considered to apply to children aged 7 years and over. There may be extenuating and exceptional circumstances as to the appropriateness of adoption for a younger child.
Applying for step-parent adoption – step by step
- You should make enquiries to the local authority whose area you live in and register an interest in step-parent adoption.
- The local authority investigates and assesses your suitability to become the child’s adoptive parent and the appropriateness of adoption (the process will involve checks and references being obtained with interviews with birth parents and extended family members where appropriate).
- You will be required to give the local authority at least three months’ written notice of your intention to apply to the Court.
- An application is made to the Court.
- The local authority submits a report to the Court on your suitability and the appropriateness of adoption.
- The Court considers your application and the local authority’s report and makes a decision.
- It can take some time for a court hearing date to be set and more than one hearing may be necessary to reach a resolution to any application made.
What to do next
Contact the First Response team on 0800 1313 126 to express an interest in step-parent adoption.
You will then be sent information and forms to complete which will need to be returned. Once your forms have been returned you will be contacted by a social worker when they are available to begin the assessment. They will also undertake the necessary checks and pursue any necessary references. Please note that you will need to have the following documents (where applicable) available when you apply to Court:
- Child’s birth certificate (full version)
- Documents relating to previous marriages
- Change of name by deed poll (if applicable)
- Documents relating to immigration status (if applicable)
It is advisable to check with the Court officials to confirm everything that the Court will require to proceed with your application.
There will be a cost to you in making your application to the court this is currently £170 (as at 1st June 2017).