Adopting a child is a major decision. Adoption is a formal legal process through which you become the child’s legal parent. You have all of the rights and responsibilities relating to the child transferred to you. It is permanent and the child’s birth parents will no longer have any rights or responsibilities in respect of the child.
If you wish to adopt a child who is a close relative or a stepchild, such as your niece or nephew or your partner’s child, then you will not need to contact an adoption agency and the following process will apply:
- You will need to advise the local Social Work Department that you wish to adopt and they will prepare a report for the court.
- Your Solicitors would then prepare an application (called a Petition) and lodge it with the local Sheriff Court.
- The court will then fix a Hearing and appoint an independent Solicitor to produce a further report on the child’s behalf.
- The birth parents will need to agree to the adoption unless the court decides that their consent is not needed, for example if they are dead or unfit to care for the child.
- If the child is aged 12 or over, then the child will also need to agree to the adoption. If the child is under 12 then their views must be taken into account if the court decides that they are mature enough to have a view on the adoption.
- If no objections are received then a Hearing would be fixed to grant the Adoption Order.
The court will only grant an Adoption Order if it is better for the child that an Adoption Order is made rather than not made.
If you wish to adopt a child because, for example, you cannot have any children of your own, it is likely that you will need to contact an adoption agency. The agency will then need to approve you as an adopter and identify a suitable child. After that, the process would be the same as above.
You must normally be 21 years old in order to adopt. There is no legal upper age limit. However, if you are adopting through an adoption agency rather than adopting a relative or step child, then different agencies have different criteria. They will look for adopters who have the capability, both physically and mentally, to care for the child through that child’s younger years and into their adulthood.
You can apply to adopt either on your own (as an individual) or as part of a couple. So, being single or unmarried won’t prevent you from adopting a child. Adopting as a couple includes married couples, civil partners and cohabiting couples (including same sex couples) so long as you are living together in an enduring family relationship. So you should be able to show that your relationship is well established and stable.
You can adopt your partner’s child or children so long as your partner is at least 18 years old and you are at least 21 years old. The process outlined under ‘What is the adoption process?’ above would apply.
The Adoption Order is the Order granted by the court and once this is granted you will gain full responsibilities and rights in respect of the child (unless you have applied to adopt a stepchild in which case you and your partner will have equal rights). The child’s birth parents will no longer have any parental rights or responsibilities in respect of the child. The General Registrar is informed of the Order and a new birth certificate is requested from the Adopted Children’s Register.
Any child under the age of 18 who has never been married or in a civil partnership can be adopted. If a child is aged 12 or over then they will need to agree to the adoption, and if a child is under 12, but mature enough to have a view on the adoption then their views must be taken into account.
Adopting a child from overseas can be complex. You would need to be assessed and approved in the same way as with UK agency adoption. You should contact either your local Social Work Department or another registered adoption service to progress matters, and you would also need to check that the country you wish to adopt a child from allows intercountry child adoptions. You can find useful information on the Intercountry Adoption Centre (IAC) and Scottish Government websites.
If you are considering adopting then it is a good idea to contact a Family Lawyer to make sure you are fully informed about the adoption process, any likely costs and the consequences of adoption for both you and the child. You may also wish to seek advice from other agencies such as Adoption UK and Coram BAAF Adoption & Fostering Academy.
At Thorntons Family Law, we offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs.
Depending on your case and circumstances, the next step is to come into one of our local offices to meet a Family Law Solicitor about your case and the way forward.
Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.
We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options. In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package. If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations. Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as court costs or payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses.
Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.