Adopt a stepchild

Adoption is an important matter, and makes a change in a child’s life that will last a lifetime. It is for that reason the focus of in-family adoption is on the child’s needs; not just for now, but also looking ahead to his or her future.

There are many reasons for considering in-family adoption - it is often the case that parents and step parents think about adoption when they marry, or have a child together. Sometimes it is about making a joint commitment to bringing up a family, and sometimes it is about moving on from a difficult time, or relationship.

For the child adoption is not necessarily about these things, and often has much more to do with experience of family life, identity, and knowledge about his or her personal history.

Adoption in almost all circumstances involves the child’s birth parent being contacted. In some circumstances this can, in itself change things, and sometimes leads to birth parents who have not been involved with parenting their child taking a renewed interest.

In-family adoption and the court processes

Applicants do not have to be married, but evidence is needed of a long term stable relationship, where both parties have been parenting the child.

It is unusual for an Adoption Order to be made for grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. Special Guardianship or Residence Orders are usually made in these circumstances.

Adoption in almost all circumstances involves the child’s absent birth parent being contacted. In some circumstances this can, in itself change things, and sometimes leads to birth parents who have not been involved with parenting their child taking a renewed interest.

The court expects to have the views of all birth parents, in any adoption proceedings. Birth parents will therefore be interviewed in all cases, whether or not they have parental responsibility.

It is very unusual for an Adoption Order to be made without the consent, or agreement of a parent who has parental responsibility. (Since 2003 birth fathers who were not married to the child’s mother have parental responsibility, if the father’s name is on the birth certificate).

We would not normally make a recommendation to the court for an Adoption Order to be made on a child under six except in exceptional circumstances.

What are exceptional circumstances?

If an Adoption Order is needed for the child’s safety and security. That is to say, the child would in some way be ‘at risk’ if an Adoption Order was not made.

Other exceptional circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis.

Examples include:

  • A child with serious illness requiring treatments, and consents to treatments from an uncooperative or unavailable absent birth parent.
  • The death or serious illness of a birth parent caring for the child.
  • Other exceptional circumstances might include surrogacy, same sex couples. Sperm donated births.

Applications with a foreign element

Is the child in the UK?

Is the child’s parent in the UK?

If the parent and child are in the UK the process is a little easier.

Relatives (other than parents) will need a home study to adopt.

Nationality and immigration issues are often very complex, and legal advice will be needed.

Same sex couples and in-family adoption

Same sex couples can now register their child’s birth and gain joint parental responsibility in this way only if they have used a reputable agency.

Same sex couples who use other methods or surrogacy will have to adopt their child through the normal process.

Alternatives to in-family adoption

Change of name by deed poll.

Parental responsibility agreement drawn up by a solicitor.

The court also has a range of orders that can give the child security, and even safeguard the child from risk without depriving a birth parent of their parental responsibility by making an Adoption Order.

The court can make a Special Guardianship Order, or Residence Order, both of which could extend parental responsibility to a step parent without changing the birth parents’ rights.

There are a number of other organisations which provide advice and information about step parent adoption.

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