Adoption is an exciting but daunting journey for child and parent alike. When you adopt a child the Court makes you that child's legal parent. An adoption order is permanent and cannot be reversed. Any single person or couple who live together, whether married or in a civil partnership, heterosexual or same-sex partners, can adopt a child.

Who can Adopt?

Single individuals or couples can adopt, and it is not necessary to be married or in a civil partnership.  There are no restrictions based on sexual orientation or religion.

A  single adopter or one of a couple must be domiciled in a part of the British Isles; or the single adopter or both members of a couple must have been habitually resident in a part of the British Isles for a period of not less than one year immediately before the date of the application.  The adopters must generally be at least 21 years old.

The child must live with the adopter(s) for a period before an application for an adoption order can be made.  That period depends on the circumstances;

  • Children placed for adoption by local authorities - 10 weeks
  • Step parent adoptions - 6 months
  • Local authority foster carers - 1 year
  • Children brought into the UK for the purposes of adoption - 6 months (if the regulations have been complied with or 1 year if they have not)
  • Every one else - not less than 3 years (whether continuous or not) during the period of 5 years preceding the application

If the parent(s) or guardian of the child do not consent to adoption, an order can only be made if the Court dispenses with their consent on the grounds that the parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent, or the child’s welfare requires it.

Adoption of Children from Local Authority Care

Prospective adopters apply to a local authority or independent adoption agency to be assessed and approved to adopt.  The assessment and approval process generally takes about 6 months. Once approved, the adopter(s) can be matched with a child, and the child placed with them. An adoption application can be lodged with the Court once the child has been in the adoptive placement for 10 weeks. Before a child in care can be placed for adoption by a local authority, the Court has to make a Placement Order authorising the local authority to place the child for adoption. That Placement Order deals with the issue of parental consent. Where a Placement Order has been made the parent(s) or guardian cannot oppose the adoption application unless they have obtained permission from the Court. Permission is not often granted. A Placement Order will generally have been made immediately after the court dealt with the care proceedings

Adoption of Children from Abroad

These adoptions fall into two categories, those effected under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption 1993, and those from non Hague Convention countries.
Anyone who is habitually resident in the British Isles must be assessed as a prospective adopter before bringing a child into the UK for adoption, or bringing a child into the UK a child adopted under an external adoption order in the last six months.

In the case of a Hague Convention adoption, where at least one of the adopters was a British citizen at the time of adoption and  the adopting parent ( or if joint adoption both of them) were habitually resident in the UK at the time of the final adoption order, then the child will automatically become a British citizen. The adoption order will be automatically recognised.

In non Hague Convention cases the adoption order is not normally recognised under UK Law, and it is necessary to apply to adopt the child in this country.  If the adopter, or one of them (if a couple), is a British national, the child will acquire British citizenship on adoption.  The adoption application cannot be lodged until the child has lived with the adopters for 6 months if the regulations have been complied with and 1 year if they have not. In such adoptions it is necessary to have the consent of the parent(s)/guardian of the child, or to apply to dispense with consent.

Step Parent Adoptions

The child must have lived with the step parents for a period of 6 months before the application is made, and before applying to the Court, the adopter has to give three months notice to their local authority of their intention to apply for an adoption order. The local authority will conduct an assessment and make recommendation to the Court. The consent of a birth mother/father with parental responsibility will be needed, or will have to be dispensed with. It is likely that even if the birth father does not have parental responsibility (all birth mothers have parental responsibility) the local authority will contact him and seek his views.  If the adoption is opposed, the Court will normally appoint a Children’s Guardian to represent the child and to advise the Court on the child’s best interests.

Adoptions by Foster Carers

Sometimes foster carers want to adopt their foster children. They can ask the local authority to assess them as adopters and then formally place the child with them for adoption, or they can make a non agency application ( for example where the local authority in whose care the child is does not support the adoption). The child must have lived with the foster carers for a year before an application can be made. Three months notice has to be given to the foster carers’ own local authority, and that too can only be given once the child has lived with them for a year, or the Court gives permission for notice to be given early. The adopters will need the consent of the birth parent(s) with parental responsibility or will need apply to dispense with their consent as any placement order will not be effective.

We Can Help

At MW Solicitors our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those going through the adoption process.

The adoption process is fairly technical, and involves getting the steps right, we can advise you on the best approach and help you draw up the documents.  Our Family Solicitors are experts with many years experience in all aspects of Family Law.  If you wish to discuss the specifics of your case or want to talk to one of our specialist Family Lawyers, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or use our Contact Us form to arrange a callback at your convenience.